Death, stress and destruction continue to define the ongoing crisis in the Philippines, as an international coalition assisting its South Asian island ally finishes containing the initial emergencies and turn their attention to the grueling weeks and months ahead.
"We're getting to a point where we can start thinking about recovery aspects, but we don't want to declare victory prematurely," says Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance program at the U.S. Agency for International Development. "The destruction in those coastal areas was near total."
Konyndyk is managing the U.S. government humanitarian response effort in the wake of early November's Super Typhoon Haiyan. He briefed Congress Tuesday about the ongoing work there and the continued need for funding and support.
In addition to relief aid – including the ability to provide clean water and shelters – USAID has used funding to purchase thousands of tons of food directly from local Filipino distributors. This eases some of the logistical difficulties of getting supplies to where they are needed most and injects cash into the Philippine economy in great need of a boost.
At least 4,011 are dead, almost 19,000 are injured and 1,600 remain missing since Haiyan first made landfall in the Philippines on Nov. 8, according to the latest numbers from the Philippine government. Reports of bodies festering in the streets as well as violence and looting defined much of the initial media coverage.
Konyndyk says security concerns have been contained largely by local forces, adding, "It's been pretty calm from what we've seen."
"It's obviously a high-stress environment any time you're having to address an acute crisis like this," he says. "It also takes a toll on the entire community. You have these people who are in dire, dire straits."
The World Health Organization provided body bags to the Philippine government to help with addressing the death toll. Some have been buried in mass graves and many without ceremony to prevent the spread of disease.
The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit arrived in the Philippines early Wednesday with roughly 1,000 troops, in addition to the roughly 1,000 soldiers, sailors and Marines that have trickled in since Haiyan passed through. These ship-born units are 10 times more effective at delivering aid to the outlying regions that were hardest hit, said Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy. Airlifts have been hampered by severe damage to regional airfields.
There currently is no timeline for how long these troops will remain, officials said.
"As the civilians start to arrive in greater force and get more organized then they're able to take a lot off the burden of the Department of Defense," says Konyndyk.
The Chinese came under international scrutiny for what some saw as meager initial pledge of $200,000. It announced Wednesday it would bolster that with more than $1.5 million, and has dispatched its navy's 10,000-ton Peace Ark hospital ship with 300 ward beds to the region, reports state-sponsored news agency Xinhua.