It will be weeks before the world gets a handle on the full scale of devastation and death wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, which ripped through the central Philippines last week, but it’s clear from initial, incomplete accounts that the impact has been staggering. Millions of people have been affected, hundreds of thousands displaced and untold thousands or tens of thousands killed.

International organizations are gearing up for what will be a vast, complex and challenging relief effort.

Although initial news reports have focused on the horrific destruction in the provincial capital city of Tacloban, there are many fragmentary dispatches from rural and remote towns and villages suggesting a widely dispersed calamity. That means huge logistical problems will need to be resolved to carry out an effective relief effort that reaches people and places victimized by the storm.

Equally important is averting a public-health disaster. That will mean distributing food, clean water and medical supplies.

Fundraising drives are under way, and about two dozen countries have announced relief efforts — though the efforts planned by some, such as China’s pledge of $100,000, seem grossly inadequate.

By contrast, the U.N.’s humanitarian affairs office quickly released an initial $25 million from the world body’s emergency fund. That suggests more realism about the scale of the tragedy. Still, speed is essential.

The Washington Post (Nov. 12)