Typhoon Haiyan, also known as Super Typhoon Yolanda, battered the Philippines on November 8, 2013, with torrential rains and winds reaching nearly 200 miles per hour, equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane. This made Haiyan one of the most powerful typhoons ever, damaging or destroying more than 90 percent of structures in its path. Direct Relief worked with local government, hospital officials, and clinics to rebuild and help people affected access health care and supplies they needed.
Responding to the Typhoon
Typhoon Haiyan crashed into the Philippines with wind speeds close to 200 miles per hour – at the time, the strongest cyclone ever recorded.
The typhoon killed approximately 7,000 people, displaced more than 4 million, and led to a massive international humanitarian emergency response.
Many who had been forced to evacuate after the earthquake were still vulnerable at the time of the typhoon, living in temporary shelters.
After Typhoon Haiyan struck the Visayas region of the Philippines, Direct Relief coordinated the rapid relocation of more than 1.5 tons of emergency medicines and supplies that had been deployed during the organization’s response to the earthquake.
Category 5 Super Typhoon Haiyan
Haiyan crashed into the Philippines as a Category 5 Super Typhoon with wind speeds close to 200 miles per hour – at the time, the strongest cyclone ever recorded.
The storm surge – rising above 20 feet in some areas – swept through densely populated regions, including the major city of Tacloban.
Ultimately, Haiyan killed approximately 7,000 people and many more were injured. More than 16 million people were affected across more than 12,000 barangays (villages) in 44 provinces. 1.1 million houses were damaged or destroyed, and total damages were estimated at $2 billion.
Direct Relief had been monitoring the storm and maintained contact with local Filipino partners as Haiyan became a ‘super typhoon’ tracking towards Eastern Samar.
Within the first 24 hours after landfall, as Haiyan left its trail of destruction, the organization swung into action.
Direct Relief soon had its emergency response team on the ground, coordinating with partners, conducting assessments, and delivering emergency medicines and medical supplies to the places hardest hit by the storm.
Within two weeks, Direct Relief, working with FedEx and other supporters, had landed 12 humanitarian shipments of specifically requested emergency medicines and supplies with a combined value of over $9 million. This included the organization’s largest-ever humanitarian FedEx airlift of emergency medicines and supplies, valued at $5 million and including enough antibiotics, wound care supplies, I.V. fluids, pain relievers, chronic disease medications, oral rehydration solution, and other supplies to treat 250,000 people.
Direct Relief also helped equip teams of emergency responders from Access Aid International, Mammoth Medical Missions, and Reach Out WorldWide as they deployed to provide response efforts across 19 islands affected by the storm. Direct Relief also worked with Team Rubicon, a disaster-response veteran service organization, to provide their search-and-rescue medical response team with portable kits containing products ideal for addressing the needs of displaced flood survivors.
This work was conducted in consultation with organizations including the Ayala Foundation, the Philippine Hotel Reservations Service, the U.S. Philippines Society, and the IPI Foundation, which provided temporary warehouse space in Cebu.
Ultimately, Direct Relief delivered medicine and medical supplies via air cargo, as well as carried by hand, to more than 100 healthcare provider partners in the region who were impacted by the storm. This included 302 tons of donated medical relief goods, with a wholesale value of more than $32.9 million — enough to provide aid to more than 500,000 people.
The shipments contained items such as wound dressings for trauma-related care, antibiotics for skin and respiratory infections, IV fluids, oral rehydration formula, pain medication, surgical instruments, hygiene kits, exam gloves, antifungal medicines, medication for chronic illnesses, and nutritional items for pregnant mothers and displaced children, among many other medical-relief goods.
Technology Informing Relief Efforts
As damage assessments began in the Philippines, Direct Relief monitored its partners in the storm’s track using Esri mapping technology. The organization stayed in close contact with its network in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, where the storm was also predicted to make landfall.
Teams from Direct Relief’s partner organizations coordinated to conduct health and structural needs assessments, syndromic surveillance for public health, and coordination of volunteer efforts. They used GPS-enabled satellite communications devices (inReach SE from DeLorme, now part of Garmin) provided by Direct Relief. These devices could send and receive text messages anywhere in the world, regardless of cell phone coverage, which was crucial due to significant loss of internet connectivity in the Philippines. More than 130 of the devices were shipped to partners such as the Philippine Red Cross, Save the Children, Team Rubicon, and Access Aid International during Direct Relief’s Philippines response.
This analysis included endeavors such as determining the operational status of Carigara District Hospital northwest of Tacloban, which included close proximity aerial imaging with a Huginn X1 civil drone. This provided enough information to allow Team Rubicon to set up a medical relief station there. The drone, manufactured by Sky Watch and distributed by Danoffice IT, was a ruggedized quadcopter adapted for search-and-rescue support, with high-definition digital cameras and thermal imaging. Danoffice IT contributed the technology and manpower to NGOs on the front lines of the typhoon response.
From Emergency to Recovery
In addition to donating medical materials, Direct Relief has awarded more than $2.8 million in grant funding to local partners.
This support helped local health partners and health facilities maintain critical services during the emergency phase after Haiyan. It also enabled them to rebuild health infrastructure, offer ongoing maternal and child health services, and provide primary care to hard-hit communities during the long recovery.