Americares is responding to the Taal Volcano activity in the Philippines. Authorities have declared a “calamity zone” around the volcano which began spewing ash on January 12 and fears increase that a major eruption may be imminent. Tens of thousands of people are being evacuated from the area around the volcano, a popular tourist destination; the increased volcanic activity has already coated several communities in a thick layer of ash. The volcano, which last erupted in 1977, is located about 40 miles from Manila. There is considerable concern that an event similar to the massive 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo may occur, which killed hundreds and blanketed large areas of the countryside, causing massive mudslides and large-scale economic hardship.
Americares has deployed an emergency response team to assist families displaced by the volcanic activity in the Philippines. The team, based out of the Americares office in Manila, is distributing protective masks, cleaning kits and essential hygiene products to families staying in evacuation centers in the Batangas province. Inhaling volcanic ash particles can cause breathing problems, particularly for children, the elderly and those with chronic respiratory issues. Residents of affected communities have been advised to wear protective masks or place a wet cloth or towel over their face when going outdoors.
Americares has been providing assistance to the Philippines—one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries—for more than 20 years. Americares established a base of operations in Manila in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 to respond more quickly to disasters and strengthen health care for families in need. In addition to preparing for and responding to disasters, the Americares Philippines team helps to repair, rebuild and support critical local health centers, often the only source of care for thousands of people.