The Philippines is generally more prepared for disasters than other countries, but the typhoon that hit it last year was far more severe than the country could prepare for, said Ibrahim Younis, an emergency relief coordinator with Doctors Without Borders.
Younis, a Tucsonan, traveled to Leyte Island, the hardest-hit in the Philippines, three days after the typhoon struck there.
"Basically my role was to assess the situation, and to feed back to my headquarters as soon as possible to deploy the resources needed," he said.
As an emergency coordinator for Doctors Without Borders, Younis travels the world to disaster and war zones to help provide medical care in the neediest areas.
That includes addressing medical needs, but also providing housing materials, clean water facilities, mental health and family care, he said in an interview with Arizona Public Media after he returned from the Philippines.
"I define the strategy for where the emergency response should be heading to," he said.
In the Philippines, devastation was everywhere, much like in the tsunami that struck Thailand and other areas around the Indian Ocean in 2004.
"The Philippines, in general, they are prepared for such disasters but they were not prepared for the scale of this disaster," Younis said. Hospitals had to operate at lower capacity than normal because doctors and nurses were trying to restore their own homes and families, or were simply missing after the storm, he said.
"All the infrastructure was down, roads were blocked with debris and all the communication was down," Younis said.