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Philippines

Up to 200,000 Philippine Christians on charity walk for typhoon victims

Thousands of members of an influential Christian group in the Philippines have walked in a fundraising rally for victims of November's typhoon. Former footballer and UNICEF ambassador David Beckham also paid a visit.

Police in Manila said 200,000 people took part in the walk on Saturday to raise money for survivors of one of the country's worst-ever typhoons. All those who walked the three kilometers along the capital's seaside avenue bought special white t-shirts to wear during the march, with all proceeds being donated to help victims of Typhoon Haiyan.

The walkers were members of the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) which has at least three million members in the largely Catholic nation of 100 million people. The group's conservative members tend to vote as a group and are, as a result, politically significant.

It is a hundred days since Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines on November 8, killing more than six thousand people and displacing four million. A million homes were either damaged or destroyed. Many people are still living in tents and other temporary shelters supplied by an international humanitarian effort led by the United Nations.

"We cannot afford to be complacent," Luiza Carvalho, the UN coordinator for the Philippines, said on Saturday. "The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical."

"Millions of livelihoods were similarly destroyed or impaired when the typhoon tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with saltwater and took away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels," Carvalho added.

Carvalho also called for more donations to help the survivors. She said that only 45 percent of the UN's aid appeal for $788 million (575 million euros) launched in December has been raised so far.

Beckham benefit

Former footballer David Beckham paid a two-day visit to typhoon-hit areas in his role as a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). On Friday he played football with children on the sports field of a ruined school in Tanauan, one of the towns worst hit by the typhoon. Earlier he had visited a health care center.

“As a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, seeing how children are being given a sense of normality amidst the rubble of their communities has been amazing,” Beckham said via a UNICEF blog. “I want to show people around the world how their generous donations have had an enormous impact on children and their families and how thankful people here are for their kindness.”

jm/dr (dpa, AFP)

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