MANILA, Philippines - Philippine government efforts are now picking pace after days of slow relief operations, but millions of "Yolanda" victims, particularly women and children, are now in need of protection against abuse, United Nations humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said.
Amos, also the UN emergency relief coordinator, went back to Tacloban City on Tuesday exactly a week after her first visit when she was appalled by the typhoon devastation and distressed by the slow delivery of relief assistance.
"Today was very different. The relief operation has been scaled up substantially," Amos said. "People are making every effort to rebuild their lives and the early signs of entrepreneurialism are all there, with women cooking and selling food, others removing debris or providing other support in the community."
"National and local Government efforts, supported by the international community, are paying off," she added.
But while relief efforts are gathering pace every day and are reaching more people, Amos said many areas outside Tacloban City have yet to receive aid, including those that are further inland, in the mountains and on many smaller islands still unreached.
Amos reported that 2.5 million typhoon victims need food assistance while ensuring safe drinking water remains a challenge in many areas.
"With over 500,000 homes completely destroyed, the need for emergency shelter and basic protection for women, for children, remains," Amos said.
The UN official said an estimated 3.2 million women and 4.6 million children need psychosocial support and protection against violence, trafficking and exploitation.
This comes amid reports of violence and rape in areas hit by the super typhoon.
"Pregnant women, new mothers and other vulnerable groups also need special care," Amos said.
Amos also reported that significant food and medical assistance have been provided to the typhoon victims while water services and limited telecommunications services have been restored.
She said UN humanitarian partners have estimated that they have reached just over 1.1 million people with food aid. Water bladders and water treatment points have also been installed to provide clean drinking water to thousands of people in Capiz, northern Cebu and Roxas City.
The Philippine government has also distributed 837,900 food packs in the affected areas, Amos said.
But despite the misery caused by "Yolanda," the UN official said she is awed by the resilience of Filipinos in times of disasters.
"I continue to be struck by the resilience and spirit of the Filipino people. Everywhere I visited, I saw families determined to rebuild their lives under the most difficult conditions," she said.