In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines and devastated hospitals, schools and other public services. With an estimated $12 billion in damages, the disaster killed at least 6,300 people, displaced more than 4 million and destroyed 500,000 homes.
Six months later, the nation continues to work toward long-term recovery, but there have been clear immediate achievements. Most children are back in school, roads have been cleared of debris, 15 percent of homes have been repaired, nearly all hospitals have been reopened and over 120,000 households have received assistance to rebuild damages.
Of the 14 million people affected by Typhoon Haiyan, 6 million lost their jobs. The United Nations, various NGO partners and the rest of the international humanitarian community have helped accelerate the progress of reconstruction and recover long-lasting sources of income. In the meantime, a number of short-term initiatives have been implemented as well. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and several of its partners have helped many Filipinos find short-term employment, job training and micro-enterprise support. Immediately after the typhoon, the UNDP also offered cash-for-work opportunities for those who helped with debris and waste removal in affected areas. Additionally, of the 42,000 people who have secured temporary jobs through the UNDP’s early recovery program in the Visayas, 35 percent are women.
However, millions of Filipinos still require urgent assistance. More than 5,000 households live in evacuation centers. Those who depend on agriculture and fishing for their incomes are suffering as well. The UNDP estimates that over 1 million farming families are in danger of losing their livelihoods. Nearly 33 million coconut trees – which are one of the nation’s leading crops – have been damaged or destroyed, and around two-thirds of the fishing community has been affected by the typhoon, primarily due to the loss of fishing boats. To help alleviate the issue of damaged coconut trees in Roxas and Ormoc, the UNDP has provided six mobile sawmills and funds to support emergency employment, allowing many to generate quick sources of income from processing and distributing the lumber of damaged coconut trees.
In order to lessen the impact of future disasters like Typhoon Haiyan, the Filipino government is planning to implement more sustainable reconstruction strategies. Recently, more than 150 delegates came together at the Asia-Europe Meeting Manila Conference to discuss new policies for disaster preparation. Margareta Wahlström, a special representative from the United Nations, has supported President Aquino’s policy to “build back better” with new technologies and innovations. Other points of discussion during the conference included improving policies to rebuild communities, strengthening the state and other stakeholders and managing international coordination while responding to disasters. The delegates at the conference also toured Barangay Pago, a resettlement area that shelters 40 displaced families, and the Bislig Elementary School in Tanauan.
UNDP Administrator Helen Clark has stated that full recovery could take over a decade for the Philippines. The UNDP has urged the international community to make long-term engagements that address “crises that could deepen inequality and poverty.” In addition to rebuilding physical buildings and structures, the Philippines must take measures to strengthen its resilience against future emergencies and natural disasters.
– Kristy Liao