Recovery from Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

In the aftermath of the November 2013 typhoon that displaced 4 million people, destroyed 1 million homes, and damaged livelihoods across nine provinces in the central Philippines, ACT members overcame many challenges to reach an estimated 1 million survivors in recovery efforts this year.

As the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall, Haiyan left behind tons of debris and millions of fallen coconut trees. Six months later, the ACT response had shifted from emergency aid to recovery, focusing on shelter and livelihoods, education, psychosocial help and disaster preparedness.

The shelter response was particularly challenging due to the government-imposed 40 metre no-build zones, which left millions of people who had lived on the shoreline now homeless and internally displaced. This was further complicated by bureaucracy of land acquisition in safe locations, delaying the start of any construction.

Despite the difficulties, ACT provided 100,000 people with new shelters in 2014, either permanent or temporary. Construction of permanent housing was modest, as most families whose houses were destroyed lived on rental land or had only verbal agreements with the land owner. After a virtually ineffective land reform 20 years ago, 90 per cent of the land still remains in the hands of big land owners.

“Landlessness makes people vulnerable,” said ACT member Emergency Field Coordinator Joselito Sosmena. “Often people are not allowed to build other than transitional shelters (made of light materials such as bamboo and palm leaves), and these are not safe when a storm comes.”

To support livelihoods, new vegetable gardens have been planted using seeds and tools provided by ACT, and women’s groups have started fish processing in many communities. New boats and/or nets, to replace those broken or lost during the typhoon, have been given to 40,000 fishermen, and more than 75,000 farmers, whose crops were destroyed, have been given what they need to replant.

However, rehabilitation work in the Philippines will be long term, particularly in terms of livelihoods, as the millions of coconut trees destroyed will take seven to 10 years to grow back and provide people with livelihoods once again.

ACT members have been assisting communities to better assess their risks, vulnerabilities and capacities, and to develop disaster preparedness and response plans.

The Philippines is a disaster-prone nation with an average of 20 typhoons per year, around five of which cause serious damage.