Typhoon Haiyan, Two Years Later
During the past two years the efforts of the humanitarian community, the local authorities, and the Philippine population have unearthed important lessons about disaster risk reduction in the country with the second worst exposure in the world.
After the initial emergency response to save lives, work continues to restore their livelihoods (mainly coconut farming and fishing) in the affected areas, a process that may last up to ten years.The Philippine population has given a lesson in resilience to the world, after what has been considered the worst disaster in the country's history.
Two years later, we have the hindsight to analyze lessons learned from the disaster that was the most virulent in recent Philippine history. Typhoon Haiyan, with its wind gusts exceeding 180 miles per hour, caused more than 6,000 deaths and severely affected the lives of 15 million people. Despite its devastating effects, the consequences could have been greater had it not been for the effectiveness of the humanitarian response and the resilience of the Filipino population.
"The collaboration between the authorities and the humanitarian community was essential to minimize the effects of the typhoon. The rapid implementation of a contingency plan allowed us to quickly centralize the response in neighborhoods and communities. However, after an initial emergency response, the focus of the humanitarian community turned to the implementation of sustainable solutions for future disasters, " says Benedetta Lettera, who was our Head of Base in Tacloban after the disaster.
Action Against Hunger immediately mobilized our teams already present in the country and managed to reach ground zero 72 hours after the disaster occurred. "[It] caused enormous logistical challenges to humanitarian access and support, especially in rural communities." said Lettera.
By working closely with partners and local authorities, we put in place programs focused on nutritional counseling, water, sanitation and hygiene, and food security and livelihoods. Nearly one million people were treated by our teams in 46 municipalities in seven provinces. Two years later, our current programs are mostly focused on disaster risk reduction and adapting to severe weather patterns.
Money transfers to recover livelihoods
The Philippines contends with an average of 25 typhoons a year, and is considered the country most exposed to natural disasters save for Bangladesh. After Haiyan, survivors had to resume their lives with virtually no resources. Therefore, strengthening their livelihoods was essential for disaster recovery -- especially for the most vulnerable population, since 40% of the victims they were living under the poverty line. Action Against Hunger utilized cash transfers after Haiyan, a type of response that has become one of the most effective post-emergency interventions; the most affected families received money -- unconditional for some, and for others in exchange for working to clean up debris in affected areas. This boosted the local economy, and also gave Filipinos the opportunity to decide on their own investments for recovery.
"This money gave us hope and an opportunity to turn around our lives", said Sherel Shroud, 26. Now she runs a small shop which does well enough to support her family's daily needs. In total, we have distributed 26,000 Philippine pesos to 10,000 families affected during 2014 and 2015.
Managing risk to prevent a repeat
After the first impact, the population itself has led the recovery process during the past two years. The reconstruction was carried out with an integrated risk management program, to prevent something like it from happening again. "We have built latrines and water infrastructure with stronger materials and at higher altitudes, and we have developed contingency plans for how to improve alerts and how and where to evacuate communities...typhoons that have hit after Haiyan have been examples of how the population's preparation is crucial for mitigating and minimizing damage, " according to Didier Verges, who runs disaster risk management for us in the Philippines.
The international community must remain vigilant
We must not forget that there are still needs among the most vulnerable population. "The second anniversary is an occasion to be grateful for what has been recovered in the country and to remember those who have not yet been recovered. There are thousands of people still trying to return to their old routines and thousands who are still looking for a permanent home," said Javad Amoozegar, Country Director for Action Against Hunger in the Philippines.
In an area so prone to suffering the effects of natural disasters, the international community must not lower our guard against the consequences of severe weather events.