By Mick Krever, CNN
The humanitarian devastation in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines shows just how overstretched the global humanitarian community is, John Ging, director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said Wednesday.
“One of the biggest constraints that we have is that we can’t fill the warehouses in anticipation of these disasters because we’re overstretched worldwide,” Ging told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen, sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
“There are children starving in the Sahel; you look at Syria every day,” he said. “We are chronically underfunded as a humanitarian community, and then when these natural disasters hit us suddenly, we don’t also have the logistical or the supplies to hand.”
It always, therefore, takes a couple of days for the humanitarian support to mobilize, as he said we are now seeing.
More than 2,000 tons of rice have been delivered to the Philippines by the World Food Programme; but the government says that more than two million people need help, many of whom are in remote areas made even more inaccessible by storm damage.
Ging called the devastation “quite unprecedented.”
The primary need of Filipinos is food, he told Pleitgen, but also water and shelter, in the wake of a storm that destroyed countless fragile houses.
The destruction of infrastructure presents humanitarian workers with “a major logistical challenge,” he said, “and that’s why they’re so frustrated that it’s taking so long.”
Cooperation with the Filipino military, he told Pleitgen, including the use of helicopters, is aiding with the distribution.
“The Philippines as a country have invested hugely in this, but the scale of what is required is beyond their means,” Ging said.
“We talk the talk as an international community, but we don’t walk the walk when it’s putting the resources at the disposal to ensure that we can instantly” respond to disasters.