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Typhoon Haiyan victims still piecing it together four years on

TACLOBAN (UCAN):  To date, Caritas has been able to help about 1.8 million people affected by the destruction brought by Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), which struck the central Philippines in 2013.
Five years on from the disaster, the Church’s recovery and rehabilitation programme has become one of its largest and far-reaching natural disaster responses, amounting to about US$50 million ($392 million).
It is no surprise that the Philippine government’s effort, which has been beset with issues of corruption and alleged substandard construction of houses for survivors, pales in comparison to the efficient response of the Church.
Of 205,128 housing units that were supposed to be built, only 67,754 units, or 33 per cent, are fully completed. So far, only 34.3 per cent of the completed homes are occupied.
Meanwhile, Caritas Philippines reports that it was able to repair 593 housing units and construct 768 transitional units, 1,923 progressive core-shelter units and 1,167 permanent shelter units.
Progressive core shelters have a lifespan of 10 years while permanent shelter units can last a minimum of 20 years, according to Caritas.
Caritas-Philippines coordinator, Jing Rey Henderson, said that from the start they tell people that the programme is theirs and “not one of the Catholic Church.”
She explained that people need to have a sense of ownership and entitlement and to bounce back and become more “empowered, resilient, and sustainable.”
Henderson said Caritas works within the framework of community-managed disaster risk reduction and the principles and strategies of community organising.
“Through these, (we) ensure that even without the presence of (Church groups) and even beyond the funding period, communities can sustain programmes,” she said.
Henderson claimed that true to their vision, 166 communities under the Church’s three-year intervention programme have become sustainable.
“The programme is of and for communities,” she stressed, adding, “The recovery and rehabilitation programmes have flourished because the communities have a high sense of full ownership.”
All the targets for the three-year programme in nine dioceses covering 51 towns and 166 villages in the central Philippines were met.
When asked what has made the Church projects more successful than government initiatives, Father Virgilio Canete of the Archdiocese of Palo pointed to the absence of red tape.
The priest said government “procedures on procurement demand a lot of signatories.”
Father Canete said, “The situation post-Haiyan was such that government agencies involved got tied up,” adding that the Church had the advantage of having more volunteers.
Rina Reyes, leader of the Rights Network, a land-rights group, says government rehabilitation efforts have not been successful “because the affected population was not consulted.”
She points to “uncoordinated efforts of government agencies ... that do not talk to each other to resolve roadblocks, hindering rehabilitation needs.”
She pointed to the “lack of a concrete rehabilitation plan that suit the needs of the affected.” 
Wendell Avisado, an adviser to the president, Rodrigo Duterte, on rehabilitation efforts, blames the vicious cycle of the government’s bureaucratic system.
And while the government continues to find ways to address the problems, people complain that they are living in shelters that are comparable to pigpens.
Raul Malibago, a 50-year-old survivor, says his family of 10 was provided with a government housing unit in which they barely squeeze in, but that “we are not even allowed to build a second floor,” he said. 
“When we sleep, we stick together. It’s small, hot, overcrowded and there is no space for privacy,” Malibago said.
He said the house is made of “ sand and no steel bars,” making it dangerous for those inside. “I’m afraid it will collapse if there’s an earthquake,” he said.
“These housing units are not homes,” said Christopher Durana, deputy secretary-general of the urban poor activist group Kadamay.
“These are nothing but pens only fit for pigs,” he said, adding that the shelters have no stable water or electricity supply.

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