All natural disasters bring terrible suffering, but every so often there is one which seems totally overwhelming.
Everyone who has seen the evidence of the impact of the typhoon which hit the Philippines will feel for the families of all those who have lost their lives or have seen their homes devastated. It is a reminder of how fortunate we are to live on a temperate island where extreme weather events, whilst terrible enough, are on nothing remotely the same scale.
Many local people will have friends or family from the Philippines, many of whom work in our hospitals. Hospital staff have pulled together to cover the shifts of those whose family members are affected by the disaster and many have donated their time and money to help with the relief effort. I have been privileged to attend community events where the vibrancy, friendliness and humanity of the Philippine community have been much in evidence, and it is fantastic to see the whole community rallying together in this way to provide them with support.
The response has been incredible and at a time where many families are struggling to make ends meet it is heartening to witness the generosity with which people have reacted. The UK's Disasters Emergency Committee has revealed that donations have now reached £33m -- in addition to £50m pledged by the UK Government. It is also heartening to know we have Oxfam working from our county to get help to those who need it most. Oxfam has been working tirelessly with the Disasters Emergency Committee to provide essential aid to the victims and has already airlifted 20 tonnes of food, water and sanitation equipment.
The needs, however, are unimaginably great, with thousands of people displaced, and near-total devastation reported in some areas. Victims desperately need the basics of food, water and shelter. The money that is raised will go towards delivering these essentials and it is critical that we continue to provide this help. As well as the immediate and pressing need for water, food, shelter and medicines, there is clearly going to be a massive long-term job of work to help rebuild communities which have been totally torn apart.
Our hearts go out to all those who have relatives and friends touched by this awful disaster, and I know that local people will support the government and charities in making sure that Britain plays a full part in helping the people of the Philippines, now and for years to come.