Immediately after the natural disaster, it was virtually impossible to reach the area affected other than in military vehicles or helicopters. The 500 houses in Guinsaugon were all but engulfed in the mud that was metres deep in some parts. The rescue operation has therefore proved to be very difficult. Up to 3,000 are feared to be dead.
The two SOS Children's Villages that are located in the province next to the area where the disaster occurred, Tacloban and Calbayog, were not hit by the landslide. On 20 February, the directors of both SOS Children's Villages and SOS Social Centres contacted the Ministry for Social Welfare and Development to agree on possible emergency measures. They also held discussions with members of the SOS mothers' club at the SOS Social Centre Calbayog, with the authorities of the neighbouring barangays (districts) and representatives of governmental and non-governmental aid organisations to agree on a joint relief campaign.
For the moment, the relief measures are limited to collecting and preparing goods to cover basic needs (water, tinned foods, clothes, toiletries). The SOS Social Centres will serve as a base and focal point for the relief campaign. On Friday 24 February, SOS co-workers from Tacloban and Calbayog will bring the relief supplies to the areas affected. The extent to which SOS Children's Villages can support the affected families in the long term will then be evaluated on site.
SOS Children's Villages has been active in the Philippines since 1964. The Philippines currently has seven SOS Children's Villages, six SOS Youth Facilities, three SOS Kindergartens, three SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools, four SOS Social Centres and an SOS Vocational Training Centre.