After the Typhoon, Another Disaster: Oil Spill Endangers Community in the Philippines

Our teams race to help families in Iloilo Province displaced by an oil spill caused by Typhoon Haiyan.
The internally displaced persons (IDP) camp at a college in Estancia, Iloilo Province. Photo: ACF-Philippines, L. Grosjean

The municipality of Estancia in Iloilo Province, one of the areas in the Philippines hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan, was dealt another crippling blow by the deadly storm earlier this week: a barge owned by the national electric company, containing over a million liters of fuel, crashed during the typhoon and has begun leaking oil into the water. So far, approximately 200,000 liters of oil have already contaminated rivers, sanitation infrastructure, and houses up to a mile from the spill site. As Action Against Hunger’s teams scale up emergency relief efforts in Iloilo Province, we’ve also committed teams to assist those affected by the life-threatening oil spill.

A community uprooted

Considering the oil spill a danger to public health, the local authorities have evacuated more than a thousand families within a mile radius of the leak. These families, some of them already displaced by the typhoon, are being uprooted again and sent to a college campus in Estancia that is serving as an evacuation center.

But since this decision was made so urgently, the campus—which was also badly damaged by the storm—was not equipped to handle the sudden influx of people. There is not enough shelter, clean water, or safe sanitation for everyone. Josephine, who evacuated with her family, now shares a room with 36 other people—and may have to do so for the next three months. Antoinette, another evacuee, doesn’t even have a room—she and her family must share a tent on the college’s grounds.

“We were assigned a tent once we got here. There are fifteen of us sharing this tent—it’s really not comfortable. The real problem here is sanitation: there are no toilets, no washing facilities, and no privacy.”

– Antoinette, Typhoon Haiyan survivor and oil spill evacuee, Estancia

Racing to help hard-hit families

Part of emergency relief is preventing “over-disaster”—managing public health risks so they don’t get worse during a disaster. For example, we’re giving out emergency hygiene kits to prevent outbreaks of waterborne diseases, and providing emergency food rations to prevent increases in malnutrition cases. For families displaced by the oil spill, we’re now racing to increase their access to clean water, and to construct dozens of emergency latrines, showers, and washing areas. Charlotte Schneider, the coordinator for our emergency team, emphasizes the importance of helping these evacuees:

“Most families here had already been evacuated because of the typhoon—they had just begun to return home, only to be forced to evacuate a second time because of another emergency. We’re already putting the most basic supplies in place for them: clean water, latrines, showers, tents, and emergency relief kits. We must do the best we can to make things easier for these evacuees.”

– Charlotte Sneider, Emergency Pool Coordinator, Action Against Hunger, France

In the coming months, our teams will continue to help families like Josephine’s and Antoinette’s recover from the double impact of the typhoon and the oil spill. Your ongoing support will help us reach thousands of families in need in Estancia and across the Philippines.