National Edition

Humane Society International offers relief to animals after typhoon

Published: Sunday, Nov. 24 2013 4:00 a.m. MST

Though he had worked in many disaster response situations before, when he arrived in Tacloban, it was the first time he couldn't put what he was seeing into words.

"It was a disaster beyond description," del Napoles said.

The streets were lined with decaying bodies of the storm's victims, five days after Haiyan had torn through the city of more than 218,000.

"The entire city smelled like decaying bodies. Going around to do the assessment was really difficult, especially when you have decaying bodies around you," del Napoles said.

Many of the living appeared as if they were the walking dead. "They were walking the streets aimlessly," he said. "You could just spell out hopelessness in their faces."

Despite the horrific conditions, del Napoles and his team's preliminary assessment identified the areas of greatest need.

According to O'Meara, the rescue efforts and current hotline make up one component of the three-fold plan of action.

Companion animals are also in great need of immediate care for injuries suffered in the storm.

To offset the need, two vehicles have been placed on the island of Leyte to help workers travel to needy animals and serve as stationary clinics for the animals.

Finally, feeding stations were strategically placed throughout Tacloban and the rest of the island to give displaced animals sustenance.

"The dogs looked so hungry and thirsty," del Napoles said. "They subsisted on what they could scavenge. We immediately started feeding them.”

A delicate duty

One of the issues with the Humane Society International response is the delicate balance of addressing animal needs in the midst of human needs.

Because of the established network of Humane Society International responders, they were on the ground in less than a week.

"When humanitarian aid is prolonged in getting there, it makes it difficult to be an animal organization and find your way in there without being able to help people," O'Meara said.

Because human aid was delayed because of the magnitude of the devastation, Humane Society International distributed water and other supplies to survivors they met.

Del Napoles and his team had only brought with them dog and cat food and medical supplies for animals.

Yet the people of Tacloban were grateful for the Humane Society International's efforts, O'Meara said.

"They were extremely appreciative of our willingness to be in the disaster zone to help animals directly with veterinary care and food," she said. "It's a helpless feeling to know there is nothing you can do for your animals."

For del Napoles, the ability to serve is the most rewarding.

"Making these people believe that there is somebody out there who is looking after the needs of the animals is more than enough," he said. "When we came in, many people had not received human relief. They had not received food. And they did not mind us."

Instead, del Napoles said, they were grateful for the attention being directed to their loved ones.

Sometimes, the sweetest victory can be just to reunite a man and his dog.

Email: ebuchanan@deseretnews.com, Twitter: emmiliewhitlock

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