More than two months since one of the worst storms in recorded history, survivors of Typhoon Haiyan across the Visayas region of central Philippines are moving on with their lives. To support their long-term recovery and the ongoing emergency response work of the Philippine Red Cross, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched its revised emergency appeal totalling 126 million Swiss francs (USD139 million, 102 million Euros). The appeal will support 100,000 families (500,000 people) over the coming two years.
In Tacloban, the city that bore the brunt of storm, locals defiantly quote the motto ‘Tindog Tacloban’ – ‘Rise Up’ – as they gradually put the disaster behind them. Under cash-for-work schemes, thousands have been recruited as day labourers on the mammoth task of cleaning up the tons of debris and rubbish clogging the streets and waterways.
The streets echo with the sound of hammering and drilling as makeshift shelters built from tarpaulins are slowly improved with roof sheets and salvaged timber. A shortage of building material means that nothing is wasted. Power lines are steadily being restored and the telecommunication network is connecting more communities who have been isolated since the typhoon struck. Local authorities are finishing the gruesome task of burying the 6,200 victims of the disaster in mass graves but at least 1,785 people remain missing.
The Philippine government faces enormous challenges in rebuilding the devastated economy and infrastructure, with losses from Haiyan estimated to be CHF 740 million (USD 833.88 million). The Visayas economy, which largely relies on agriculture and fishing, will take years to recover. Authorities say 33 million coconut trees were destroyed or damaged and the Philippine Coconut Authority has sent out a plea for international help to mill the 15 million tons of downed coconut lumber, much of which lies rotting on the ground, potentially attracting pests that threaten surviving trees.
In Barangay Libas, Leyte, half an hour from the coast, village official Julianito Cabalhin says recovery will be a slow process. “It will take the coconuts five years to grow, so in the meantime we will survive on rice and root crops.”
The Fishing sector was also hit hard. In some areas up to 95 per cent of boats and fishing equipment were lost to the tidal surge accompanying the storm. In towns like Palo, in Leyte Province, displaced fishermen living in rickety shacks across the road from the beach have resorted to salvaging anything they can such as fridges and coconut trunks, to turn into makeshift fishing craft. But in many places markets have evaporated and fuel is hard to come by.
Under the IFRC’s appeal, 55,500 families will receive help to restore their incomes. Most households will be supported through cash grants to restart their livelihood activities in agricultural production and other income generating activities.
With extensive damage to local health structures coupled with poor living conditions, safeguarding the health and welfare of affected communities is another priority under the appeal. 100,000 families will be targeted under an extensive health programme that includes provision of safe water, improved sanitation, community based disease prevention and epidemic preparedness, and projects that support the psychosocial well-being of survivors.
Housing remains one of the major challenges, with 21,000 families still crammed into 381 evacuation centres. Many will be relocated to temporary shelters or bunkhouses being constructed by the government. Most have chosen to return to reconstruct their damaged homes and the IFRC plans to provide 50,000 households with more durable shelter solutions. The priority will be on providing cash grants and construction materials such as roofing sheets and tools that support ‘self-recovery’ by enabling people to repair or rebuild their own homes.
Marcel Fortier, the IFRC’s head of delegation in the Philippines, says most of the survivors have started to rebuild, and half need help in construction. “Many are relying on salvaged materials and are rebuilding homes that are less safe than before the storm,” he says. “We aim to raise awareness around best practices in repairing or rebuilding houses so that they are more resistant to future natural disasters.”
Gaps remain in the aid effort, with relief slow to arrive in some of the more remote inland areas. Although they escaped the impact of the tidal surge along the coast, these communities were hit hard by the fierce winds.
Rice farmer Tupaz Quaile says he is grateful for the help he has received from the Red Cross. The father of two has just received a shelter kit as part of distribution targeting inland villages. When asked about his future plans, Tupaz says: “My rice crop and house were destroyed but this is my home. I will rebuild here, in Libas. Tell your people salamat (thank you) for their help.”