CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 24 August 2019

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Haiyan recovery efforts in the Philippines a disaster

Ronald Reyes 
 
Thirty-seven-year-old Sarah Dela Peña survived the onslaught of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines. Today, she still lives by the sea where thousands of people perished in 2013.
 
She said a relocation site offered by the government to survivors “is equally dangerous and far from our livelihoods.”
 
Dela Peña said, “There is no water and electricity there. At least here, near the sea, we find food, and we survive.” 
 
Year after year, the same issues about rehabilitating communities devastated by the typhoon are aired by survivors.
 
“But nothing real and acceptable has happened,” said Lita Bagunas of the town of Giporlos in Eastern Samar.
 
“We are not moving to houses at the relocation site because we found out they are substandard,” she said.
 
Rina Reyes, leader of a group of typhoon survivors in the central Philippines, said their current situation is reflective of the priorities of the government.
 
In 2015, the Philippines committed to achieving the 17 sustainable development goals laid down by the United Nations by 2030.
 
However, the country has already lost focus. Reyes said the government has failed to take care of its “risk reduction management efforts.”
 
She said, “Any development should start with Haiyan victims,” adding that, “disaster can have a devastating impact on development.”
 
Reyes said communities can lose their homes, people can lose their livelihoods, and families can lose their loved ones. “If we look at the situation, what can it tell us about Filipinos’ achievements towards the goals?” she asked.
 
Many survivors described the government’s rehabilitation efforts as hollow and useless.
 
“How can they manage to trick us into thinking that everything is back to normal again,” Vincent Basiano, who has been lobbying for decent housing and livelihoods for typhoon survivors, asked.
 
“If only (government leaders) could see for themselves the real conditions of small children and families in relocation areas,” he said.
 
Six years after the disaster, most survivors still live in temporary houses, which are reportedly substandard and without electricity or water.
 
Caritas Philippines, meanwhile, vowed to continue working in disaster-affected areas despite its estranged relationship with the government.
 
“The Catholic Church has remained true to its mandate, that is, to witness, journey with, and be of service to the poorest and the most vulnerable,” Jing Rey Henderson of Caritas Philippines, said. 
 
Together with its partners, Caritas has been able to raise funds and implement 3.2 billion pesos ($483 million) worth of recovery and rehabilitation projects that have benefited more than 1.8 million people.
 
“These interventions were not just one shot deals,” said Henderson, adding that the organisation makes sure to integrate its humanitarian response with long-term development programmes.
 
She said communities under Caritas’ programmes “are way better than five years before, with better and more stable incomes, and healthier and happier recipients.”
 
Henderson said, “Our government can sure learn a lesson or two from how we implement things.”
 
She said, “It’s high time we recognise that there is a vacuum in terms of accountability and transparency in how we do service delivery in government,” adding that the Catholic Church “is ready to help change this.” UCAN

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