Same Shit, Different Ways

7:28 AM

For those of you simply saturated by the volume of news on typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, feel free to scroll right on past this.

Watching the different news channels, mainly ABS-CBN, GMA, CNN, and BBC, I'm seeing the same facts, the same devastation presented in different ways. While the local channels are not immune to bias, they give a uniquely Filipino insight to the story. The foreign channels on the other hand, you would expect to be impartial. And this is what I found more interesting to compare.

Veering away from the human interest stories, which are terrible to watch all across the board, I invite you to take a look at how different networks present the criticism on Philippine government for the slow response to the typhoon and the delivery of aid. Because really, the news is like any other media: they air what sells. After the cut are 5 videos for your consideration.

Six days after Yolanda made landfall, CNN's talking heads discuss whether Anderson Cooper's assessment of inadequate government response to disaster -- an opinion verbalized by several victims and even those unaffected -- is correct. Fueling the fiiiiire. Granted, I think this is the whole slant of AC360, analysis based on what he sees. At this point, this view is a bit limited.

Contrast this to BBC's coverage, which presents what has been done, what's being done, and what is planned. Just facts.

Which leads me to form my opinion... I don't agree with Sec. Almendras that "we're doing pretty well." I don't think there's any shame in admitting that we are overwhelmed. That the severity of Yolanda triumphed over the preparations made. After all, a storm of this degree is unprecedented in the country, in most countries. But I also know the Filipino pride, the same pride that tells us we are a most resilient people, will not allow government leaders to (in their minds) lose face by admitting weakness.

This video is important because it reminds me of the weeks my team and I spent living in such towns as part of Community Medicine. We got a sneak peek of the local government infrastructure. It's all too easy to see how they could be overwhelmed by the destruction wrought by Yolanda. They were to be the first responders, and they became victims themselves. While I wish that Sec. Roxas had not stooped to the level of childish arguing (yes-i-did-see-the-same-bodies-no-you-didn't), it's hard to even consider the logistics, the tremendous amount of coordination needed for effective relief effort. It's hard to criticize.

The next 2 videos present a more global view of the situation.

The full extent of the damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan still is not clear. Emily Buchanan looks at the trail of destruction across the Philippines, and what is making the relief effort so difficult.

Sara Pantuliano, Head of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the Overseas Development Institute, says such an "immense" disaster would test the most seasoned governments in the developed world.

She said: "The international community needs to resist the urge to be affected by the 'saviour syndrome', to come in and think they can duplicate the structures and do better without the government."
Pantuliano puts it perfectly. Since college and well into the final year of med school, it has been drilled into us that to serve or aid a community, you must first determine the "felt needs" of the people, and not impose what you think they need. Surely I'm not the only one who gets the feeling a certain nation is exhibiting the savior syndrome right now. Maybe I'm idealistic but I believe in the Philippine government. It is not perfect, it is certainly not free from corruption (that's an understatement), but it is ours. We must own it, and we're the ones who must improve it.

Lastly, I know a lot of groups are organizing med missions, and that a lot of these are being denied, maybe for security reasons. I've heard from both first hand accounts and from the news that they have enough medical personnel on site; it is medical supplies that they are short of. May I suggest that the med groups instead ship over the supplies they were going to bring with them, or use the money they were going to spend for the trip and their meals to buy supplies, water, food to be shipped to the devastated areas.

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