Typhoon Haiyan strikes the Philippines, Skidmore begins to respond

Posted by Andrew Shi

Earlier this week, Typhoon Haiyan swept through the Philippines, obliterating whole cities and villages in its path. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported 4,460 deaths as of Thursday, Nov. 14, but exact numbers will not be determined until remote cities are reached and reviewed. While the magnitude of death is staggering alone, an estimated 11 million Filipinos of a population of  98 million have been affected and approximately 900,000 displaced.

Unfortunately, casualties of the storm may grow as repercussions of the typhoon including the proliferation of disease and shortages of food and clean water worsen. With destroyed infrastructure and a paucity of clean water, those in the directly affected areas may resort to drinking water contaminated by effluent. The tropical weather of the Philippines only exacerbates the incubation and spread of disease. The New York Times reports that those affected are at risk of lethal diseases such as cholera, hepatitis, malaria, dengue fever, typhoid fever, bacterial dysentery as well as polio, which has to this point been eradicated from the Philippines for 14 years. Already insanitary environments are worsened by the decaying of the dead bodies which have only begun to be buried in mass graves.

Major news outlets report that there is a severe lack of clean water, food and medication being provided by operating aid organizations. There are also reports of anarchy and fights over what limited supply there is.

The UN estimates that it will need $301 million to provide thorough aid to the Philippines.

While the number is dauntingly large, a few dollars, sometimes as low as $1, can purchase a single vaccination. One vaccination can save a life.

Skidmore College has a strong tradition of coming to the aid of others, from the victims of Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina to those of the earthquake that shattered Haiti.

Monday night, a small vigil was held outside the Murray-Aikins dining hall by Cleo Gordon '15 and several other students along with members of the Office of Student Diversity Programs clubs.

On Thursday, an email was sent out to the Skidmore Community by Richard Noel Chrisman, Director of Religious and Spiritual Life, asking the community to consider donating money to organizations dedicated to aiding the Philippines. Among the organizations suggested were: the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Mercy Corps, Save the Children, UNICEF and World Food Programme. An additional article by The Times offers a larger selection of potential charities and NGOs.

Later that same day Sofia Naqvi '14, a student representative of  the Office of Student Diversity Programs and President of Hayat, sent out an email to club presidents. "We, as a united Skidmore community, can act. We can make a positive effort to help. We have the resources, the means, the people power to do something about this," Naqvi said in her email. 

Her email purposed a fundraiser of some sort and solicited co-sponsors as well as general ideas. Naqvi recommended a benefit concert/performance with tickets sold at the door. Responses were quick and supportive of the idea. 

Naqvi's email echoes many of the sentiments espoused by Skidmore's annual Social Justice Month which the College is currently half-way through. In the spirit of the month, if nothing else, it seems only appropriate that Skidmore pursues all avenues to providing aid to those devastated by Typhoon Haiyan

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