INTERVIEW-Philippines will avoid problems from Haiti aid effort-USAID

by Alistair Scrutton
Tuesday, 19 November 2013 17:21 GMT

A survivor of Typhoon Haiyan washes from a broken pipe in a destroyed neighborhood as night falls in Tacloban November 19, 2013 REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

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STOCKHOLM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The Philippine government is strong enough to ensure long-term reconstruction in the wake of devastating Typhoon Haiyan is effective and avoid the aid problems seen after the Haiti earthquake three years ago, the U.S. Agency for International Development head said on Tuesday.

One thousand U.S. marines were arriving on Tuesday to help clear rubble and create access for aid workers at the heart of the disaster zone, Rajiv Shah said. He said some 150,000 homes had been destroyed.

The 2010 Haiti earthquake flattened government buildings, hitting what Shah described as a "relative weak state" and its process of governance hard.

"That's not the case in the Philippines, in the Philippines there is a strong, capable central government," Shah told Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview while on a visit to Stockholm.

The international community has already provided $182 million in aid for the Philippines, Shah said, adding that the United States has committed $37 million.

Billions of dollars in Haiti reconstruction efforts after its earthquake have been heavily criticised for being wasted. A U.S. Government Accountability Office report this year said U.S. aid had "mixed results" with delays in projects.

"The first lesson (from Haiti) is you need to have strong local governance to shepherd the support from the international partners to the right places and through the right mechanisms," Shah said.

"To get reconstruction investment back into the (Philippines) economy and rebuild these communities will take a longer amount of time and will have to be very strategic and focused. But it will require very strong leadership from the government of Philippines and we expect we will see that."

Reconstruction plans in the Philippines are already in focus, with the head of U.N. disaster relief Valerie Amos stressing on Tuesday the need for long-term planning to ensure farmers and fishermen can resume their livelihoods.

A Philippines government official has estimated the reconstruction bill would reach $5.8 billion.

The Philippines, international armed forces and aid agencies are struggling to get help to devastated areas due to the extent of the destruction, which has left four million people displaced.

Shah said direct food aid from the United States would start to arrive in late December.

In the meantime the United States has given cash to supply locally procured foods for emergency relief, part of President Barack Obama's priorities to slowly switch more food aid to cash rather than direct food packages from the United States

"Five years ago the food would not have arrived for several weeks and it would have been the Swedes, Norwegians and Danes that would have provided - and are providing cash - to the World Food Programme to do the procurement until the Americans arrive," Shah said.

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