Sunday, December 15, 2013

Lights slowly return to Philippines region devastated by typhoon Haiyan

Aurora Almendral at  NBC News: More than a month since Typhoon Haiyan tore through the Philippines, most of the worst-hit island of Leyte is still mired in darkness when night falls. But the lights are slowly starting to come back on — thanks to the distribution of solar lamps by the United Nations Refugee Agency.

With as many as 12 million people impacted by the storm and nearly 4 million displaced, those left behind have been trying to rebuild new homes on the ruins of their old ones. But a major issue in the makeshift cities has been light. In the wake of major natural disasters, theft, rape, human trafficking and domestic violence can often thrive in the darkness of ramshackle refugee camps.

“With no electricity, people commit these acts with a higher level of impunity,” said Arjun Jain, head of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the southern Philippines. While reports of this type of violence have so far been isolated, the fear is widespread.

...To bring light where there’s no electricity, UNHCR is distributing solar lanterns in the makeshift villages that have sprung up in the disaster zone. Designed to look like old-fashioned camping lamps, the solar panels get charged after sitting in the sun for eight hours. The charge, which provides illumination for six to eight hours, can also charge mobile phones, according to the UNHCR.

Logistical challenges have made it frustratingly hard to deliver the lanterns. Between supply chain hurdles and the sheer scale of the destruction of basic infrastructure, the delivery of lamps was delayed for more than three weeks....

Map of the Philippines by Thuresson, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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