With shelter funding shortfall, Haiyan survivors are building back worse

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 10:00 GMT

A typhoon survivor looks out from her damaged house that has become a makeshift shelter in Tacloban city in central Philippines, on Dec. 15, 2013. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

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Aid agencies stress the need to build back better, but without funding or assistance, survivors are salvaging nails and corrugated iron sheets, which won’t hold when the next storm comes

BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - In the two months since Typhoon Haiyan pounded the central Philippines, aid agencies have been stressing the need to build back better, but a massive funding shortfall has left survivors sifting through rubble for corrugated iron sheets and even nails - damaged materials that could leave them more vulnerable when the next storm strikes.

“Building back better means people are less vulnerable than before the typhoon. But with a lack of funding, people are going to be more vulnerable than before. This would mean that in a year or two we may be back here doing this again,” said Timo Luege, spokesman for the group coordinating international aid agencies' work on shelter under the U.N.’s “cluster” system

Luege said people are finding alternative ways to repair their homes instead of waiting for help from relief organizations. Aid workers say that in a country hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year, it is essential that buildings are constructed using the right materials and in the right way. 

“A lot of them are using salvaged materials such as corrugated iron sheets and nails they find in the debris. A lot of these things are damaged or of bad quality, and they won’t hold when the next storm comes,” he said in a phone interview with Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Other survivors are buying thin corrugated iron sheets that could be ripped off by the next storm.

“We’re asking for corrugated iron sheets with a certain thickness – at least 0.46 mm thick - but if somebody is poor, they will get a cheaper, thinner one,” he said. “What we’re seeing is not building back better, but building back worse.” 


Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, made seven landfalls when it struck the disaster-prone Southeast Asian country on Nov. 8, and reduced almost everything in its path into rubble. It left close to 8,000 people dead or missing, affected 14 million and damaged 1.1 million houses.

Yet despite the huge need, shelter is “seriously and disproportionally underfunded”, said the latest report by the United Nations, which noted that only 12 of the 33 projects in the $788-million strategic response plan’s shelter section have received funding. 

“We’re only 22 percent funded. Basically at the moment we only have enough money for 98,000 households for shelter self-recovery, not for 500,000 (that we are targeting),” Luege said. “How are we going to address the needs of the people when we don’t have the money?”

Furthermore, many people use their shelters not only to sleep or feel safe, but also for their livelihoods - to run a business or store goods, he said. 

“The worst case scenario is that you will have a lot of people still living under emergency shelters such as plastic tarps for a significant amount of time. It has started to rain again and that has a lot of implications for example for the health of the affected people.”


Bad weather is impeding the distribution of food and rice seeds in some of the typhoon-affected areas and has raised the risk of flash floods and landslides, said the U.N. report.

The report also raised concerns that areas inland are not receiving the same level of assistance as the coast.

“Emergency food-aid distributions will continue up to the next rice-production season in May 2014, particularly in remote inland and highland areas where some affected farmers whose crops were destroyed have not received assistance and need urgent support,” the report said.

“Affected people in underserved areas sometimes need to walk half a day to access assistance.”

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