Regional Director visits Typhoon Haiyan devastation zone

News release

Gabriel Novelo Sierra
WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Dr Shin Young-soo (left) joins Borongan Action Center Chairman Dr Nestor F. Santiago, Jr (middle) and Philippine Secretary of Health Dr Enrique Ona on a visit to areas of the central Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

The WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific, Dr Shin Young-soo, this week visited areas of the central Philippines that are recovering from the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda).

Dr Shin accompanied the Philippine Secretary of Health, Dr Enrique Ona, who is leading the Government's health response to the humanitarian disaster with assistance from WHO. They travelled to the islands of Cebu, Leyte and Samar before returning to Manila.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the country's midsection on 8 and 9 November, killing more than 5700 people, injuring more than 26 000, displacing more than 4 million and damaging numerous health facilities.

"Having now seen first-hand the shocking level of destruction—over an area that stretches over 500km—and having spoken to people in affected communities, I'm struck by the magnitude of the challenges that lie ahead," Dr Shin said.

In Cebu City, Dr Shin was briefed by WHO officials assigned to the hub that serves as a clearing house for staff, medicines and other materials heading for northern Cebu, Leyte and Samar, where much of the destruction occurred. Since the typhoon, WHO has coordinated the distribution of more than 72 tons of medicines and supplies to affected areas of the Philippines.

Dr Shin was briefed on solutions WHO officials have crafted to fill gaps in the local health workforce. From here, Dr Shin and Dr Ona flew by helicopter to Tacloban City in Leyte province, where they met with health officials before continuing on to the municipalities of Guiuan and Hernani in Eastern Samar province and the municipality of Basey in Samar province.

In Guiuan, they visited a field hospital and were briefed by health officials, who told them that a key concern was the re-establishment of a cold chain system for the provision of vaccines.

Upon returning to Cebu City, Dr Shin and Dr Ona met with WHO and Department of Health officials, who briefed them about relief efforts, including WHO support for the 65 foreign medical teams operating in the country, the early recovery plans for the heavily-damaged northern part of Cebu island, the ongoing campaign to vaccinate children against measles and polio and the success of the Philippines' innovative disease surveillance system, known as SPEED (Surveillance in Post Extreme Emergencies and Disasters).

At each stop, Dr Shin expressed his appreciation for the remarkable efforts of WHO staff and other health workers relieving the suffering of some of the 11 million people who have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

More than 70 WHO staff worldwide have been mobilized to the Philippines in support of the country’s emergency and early recovery efforts.

"The determination and dedication of Filipino and foreign health workers caring for survivors, and of our teams on the ground supporting them, gives me confidence that this response will continue to deliver much-needed help," Dr Shin said. "It will take many months, if not years, to recover, and WHO is committed to support the Philippines in the long run."

Dr Shin and Secretary Ona arrive at Mactan-Cebu International Airport before transferring to a helicopter for the islands of Leyte and Samar.

Photo: Allison Gocotano

Dr Shin and Dr Ona meet health volunteers and officials in Guiuan to discuss the current health situation in the area.

Photo: Ina Bluemel

Dr Shin meets with the Philippine Department of Health staff members, WHO staff members and international health workers in Guiuan, Eastern Samar province.

Photo: Ina Bluemel

Dr Shin and Dr Ona meet health volunteers and officials in Guiuan to discuss the current health situation in the area.

Photo: Allison Gocotano

For more information, interviews, or to arrange field visits, please contact:

Mr Paulo Lyra (Manila)
Mobile: +63 915 896 6345

Ms Aphaluck Bhatiasevi (Tacloban)
Mobile : +63 917 490 9757 or +63 947 170 7512
E-mail :

Ms Melissa Winkler (Geneva)
Mobile : +41 79 445 2518
E-mail :

Mr Ruel E. Serrano (WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific)
Assistant, Public Information Office
Telephone: +632 528 9993