Hi Reddit! We are Samir Wanmali and Silke Buhr, and we work in humanitarian emergencies for WFP.

Right now, we are in Tacloban – one of the areas most heavily devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (or Typhoon “Yolanda” as it is known by its local name) in the Philippines. We’ve been in the country as part of WFP’s emergency team since the typhoon hit exactly a month ago.

You may have seen a video of me, Silke, covering our operations the first few days after Haiyan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7byqkEY8Db8

Much remains to be done. If you want to consider learning more about supporting our work, please visit www.wfp.org/typhoon

You can also meet some of the people we help: https://www.wfp.org/stories/philippines-typhoon-what-5-survivors-are-thinking-1-month

We’ll be here for an hour or so before we have to go out to the field today.

Proof: http://i.imgur.com/PYqxUym.jpg Social media proof: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151757964955178&set=a.59121880177.81015.28312410177&type=1&theater

Ask us anything!

[EDIT 1] Hi guys, thanks for the initial questions! Unfortunately, we have to leave for now, as we still have to go out to the field. But keep the questions coming! We'll get back to you at the end of the day. Cheers!

[EDIT 2] Thank you everyone for joining us here today! We'll wrap up for now. Hope to find another time to discuss with you guys again. Cheers!

Comments: 63 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

MinnesotaCarl7 karma

Before my question I would like to say thank you for all you and your organization does. As I see your twitter posts, your news stories, or any other organization similar to yours, it makes me want to help. As of now, I am a high school student with approx. a 3.8GPA and am involved in sports and volunteer the ought the community. I was wondering what I could do in order to have the largest positive impact and what I could do now to best prepare myself for a profession as a global citizen and global worker. There was recently an foreign exchange program that gave a lecture at our school (facetheworld.org). After speaking with the presenter and sharing my ambitions, she suggested that I would be a great candidate to be a student ambassador to Germany on a US sponsorship. My question is to you, would it be better to study in Germany or stay in high school and travel after college?

WFPSilke4 karma

Hi there - thanks for the question, that's a big one... Nothing is more important than education, so focus on keeping up that great GPA. But it's always good to travel and expand your horizons. Learn languages. Meet people. Get new perspectives. You'll have plenty of opportunities to do that going forward, whether it's after high school, or as part of your studies. I never planned to be an aid worker, it just kind of happened...

GorgeousRandy4 karma

I want to help. I'm living in Asia and will have time off in January. What kinds of things can be done to aid in the cleanup effort on site?

WFPSilke3 karma

The best thing is to find an NGO or other aid organisation to hook up with so that you don't arrive here on your own trying to figure out what to do. There is so much to be done, especially if you have specialist skills. Of course, you can always help by making a donation on wfp.org/typhoon as well!! ;-)

GorgeousRandy3 karma

What type of special skills are they looking for?

WFPSilke3 karma

All sorts of practical stuff - medical skills, counselling/psychological support, engineering/construction... Have a look what NGOs there are where you are based and find out what kind of volunteers/support they need.

OutspokenTicTac4 karma

How is this disaster different and/or the same from all the other disasters that you have experienced?

WFPSilke5 karma

Well, they're all different and unique... Apart from the geographic scale and the level of devastation, what has been striking about this disaster has been the amazing strength of the local people. Everyone is so kind, so positive, so friendly. I don't know if I would have the strength to keep smiling if something like this happened to me, but every single person I have met has held on to their positivity and hope for the future. It's really inspiring.

OutspokenTicTac3 karma

Wow, that's pretty cool. What then is the most challenging disaster you guys have ever responded to?

WFPSilke2 karma

I don't know if I could single out one operation, but you should hear our logisticians when they start reminiscing about the creative ways they've figured out how to get food to remote areas in past emergencies... That might involve chartering cargo ships or dropping food from airplanes, or hiring a bunch of donkeys to carry bags of rice... Of course there are plenty of challenges that aren't related to logistics. So many of the world's humanitarian crises are related to conflict, and many times aid workers end up risking their own lives. It's pretty challenging to operate in those circumstances.

mckye0073 karma

Thank you for your dedication and courage. Will all this information be available for future reference?

WFPSilke3 karma

Erm, that's a question for the good peeps at Reddit, I guess. I think it'll stay online somewhere - I've certainly looked at a few past AMAs...

Wasu203 karma

Amidst all the local political issues (president vs mayor) in Philippines, how do you (or any international organization) manage to be effective? Given that, any significant issues to hamper efforts on helping the Yolanda victims?

WFPSilke5 karma

Oh and on issues hampering the relief work - well, the biggest challenge in the beginning was just the logistics and geography that made it physically hard to get to people, eg on remote islands... But that's working pretty well now, between boats, trucks and aircraft - the aid is flowing.

WFPSilke4 karma

WFP is known globally for not taking sides in political matters - our aim is to get food to those who need it, wherever they are. In the Philippines, the key for us is to use the existing subnational administrative structures to really get into the communities. That means working with the level below the municipalities, the so-called "barangays". Barangay captains are responsible for a few hundred families in their immediate neighbourhood and know exactly who is where and how much food they need.

maughams3 karma

Hi Samir and Silke, How is power restoration now out of a scale 1 to 10?

WFPSilke4 karma

In the cities it's probably about a 4 - area by area it's being restored, and there's actually talk of the grid coming back on in parts of Tacloban today. In the rural areas, it's still close to 1, though. The infrastructure has been badly damaged - the pylons carrying high voltage lines have been generally knocked down, and wooden and metal poles carrying the lines locally were snapped in the storm... Timescale for full power to be restored in all the affected area is officially 12 to 18 months. Thanks to one of our super duper emergency telecomms guys sitting next to me for helping me with that one - Mr "Sparky" has rigged us up with generators so that we can actually talk to you guys!

maughams3 karma

Hi Samir and Silke, Am looking to help with setting up a permanent solution for power using renewables so as to mitigate future risks. But getting hold of people who can decide is a pain. Too much politics still going on while people on the ground suffer. I want to say "Well done" to you and your colleagues for the unstinting efforts out of your hearts.

WFPSilke1 karma

Thank you! And good luck with your project!

maughams3 karma

What is the state of drinking water supply to all areas?

WFPSilke4 karma

I don't now about all areas, but I can tell you what I've seen. In Tacloban the supply of safe drinking water is pretty good now - there are tanker trucks bringing it in and circulating in outlying areas, and Unicef and others have set up water purification stations. But it's still an issue in remote areas. Safe drinking water and good sanitation are really important...

daleygaga2 karma

Hi, guys! Thanks for doing this. Since when have you been on the field and what for you is the most striking thing you've seen?

WFPSilke5 karma

I got here five days after the storm... Yesterday I was coming back from a food distribution outside of Tacloban, and we passed a family sitting outside the remains of their home. They'd kind of built a shack from scraps of wood and metal, and were sitting together outside. Next to them was a fully decorated Christmas tree! I thought I was hallucinating for a moment, but there it was, complete with tinsel and ornaments. I have no idea how they got it or saved it, but it was such a heart-warming sight. It's the imagine I'm going to hold on to when I need an emotional pick-me-up.

livelovemanja2 karma

Hi Samir. Ashley Nicolei here with LiveLoveManja @livelovemanja heard about your live Q&A via twitter. As a writer with the press and a few publishers here in California, it breaks my heart to hear about the crisis over the water. As a specialist in food allergies and awareness, is food allergies an issue in your area and do you have sufficient food for people with food allergies? Would be happy to assist in coordinating outreach and food donations for this micro niche in need (if the need presents itself).

Also what are your thoughts on earthships? Have you seen the sustainable housing documentary garbage warrior via YouTube and could their services be of use?

Love, healing, and light

Ashley www.livelovemanja.com

WFPSilke4 karma

Hey Ashley, thanks for your support. Health and safety is really important to WFP - all of the food that is distributed is tested for quality control. We don't presently keep separate stocks for people with food allergies - at the moment, the main thing we are distributing is rice, which is what most people eat every day here anyway. Haven't had much time or bandwidth to hang out on youtube lately but we'll be sure to check it out when we're back online properly!

Roxxer2 karma

Is there a particular person affected by the disaster that really touched your heart?

WFPSilke6 karma

So many people have touched my heart in the past month... One brave, kind and generous little girl stands out, though. I had to come back to Manila for a few days after my first week in Tacloban, and I got a ride back on a military plane, an American C130. It had arrived laden with relief cargo, and then loaded up a few aid workers and dozens and dozens of evacuees. It was so sad, these families carrying a few tattered plastic bags with the remains of their possessions, heading goodness knows where... There was one little boy sitting near me, he was with his grandpa and big sister, and he was just sobbing his heart out. He was the first person I'd seen since I arrived who wasn't putting on a brave face and smiling. I was pretty close to tears myself at that point. His sister, who can't have been older than about ten herself, must have noticed this, because when we were getting off the plane in Manila she kind of patted my arm and pressed somehing into my hand with a shy smile. It was a little keychain with a miniature pink plastic flip flop on it, I guess a trinket she had managed to save. It still gives me goosebumps thinking about it- she wanted to comfort me, rather than the other way around.

livelovemanja2 karma

Also, please let me know if any of my blogging and media services could be of use for WFP I would be more than happy to extend my services and volunteer my time.

Ashley www.livelovemanja.com

WFPSilke3 karma

Thanks, Ashley! :)

McCrap1 karma

Can you recommend a particular NGO or NGOs that one can volunteer with in Visayas? I'm planning on going there next week and for now I'm going with an NGO based in Manila but the work is mainly distribution and I want to help with things like building houses instead.

WFPSilke2 karma

I don't know which NGOs are on the ground right now working on construction, so can't really recommend one... But your NGO in Manila would no doubt know more. Good luck!

Jdeline1 karma

Its hard to get a message/question across to the government, so I want to try and reach out to you/WFP. I've read about so many rehabilitation works WFP has been involved with, and the practice of establishing of a MULTI DONOR TRUST FUND by the government and major NGOs to coordinate donor support seems like a really practical solution for a united effort. I just wanted to ask if the Philippine government has already approached the WFP about it?

WFPSilke1 karma

Hi there, that's an interesting question... I'm not aware of plans for a trust fund like you're describing. What there is at present is a humanitarian action plan, which is a plan and funding appeal that was issued in the first few days by the humanitarian community under OCHA, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. That document kind of gathers the plans of all the different players in whatever area they specialize in: food, water, sanitation, shelter, nutrition, etc. it's currently being revised because plans and needs change as we gather more information in the aftermath of the disaster.

vikoy1 karma

Thank you so much for your help! Im a Tacloban native but is now based in Manila. But Im actually in Tacloban right now, cleaning up our house. Where exactly in Tacloban are you based? I would love to visit you, sadly Im going back to Manila tomorrow.

WFPSilke1 karma

Hope your house and your family are ok... We are working out of City Hall mostly, where the mayor kindly is letting us use one of the rooms. Most of the day the team is out and about, though, working on food distributions and logistics.

dominant_driver0 karma

Both of you: How do you have the time and energy to be answering questions online at a time like this? How can you justify taking time away from your official relief duties?

WFPSilke7 karma

Energy is mainly thanks to coffee - it's 8am here but we've been up for a while... Time - well, we thought it was important to talk to you guys, so we carved out an hour. It has to be said that we're multitasking - we're sitting in our 'meeting room', a plastic table in a street in Tacloban, and people are coming and going and Samir is talking to colleagues about operational issues as he's typing...