Haiyan 3 months on- Communities lead the way

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 12:01

When Typhoon Haiyan struck three months ago, it left in its wake huge needs. 1.4 million houses were partially or totally damaged by the storm and livelihoods were devastated, including coconut crops that will take up to a decade to recover.

But hope is not lost. Three months on, communities are continuing to lead what has been a very strong response. They have started rebuilding permanent shelter, and work has begun on recovering their livelihoods. The Government, local NGOs, INGOs and UN have come forward to stand in solidarity with the community to overcome the challenges that remain.

Since the typhoon hit, ActionAid has worked with six local partners to distribute relief in the form of food packages, non-food items such as hygiene kits containing sanitary napkins and soap, and shelter repair kits to communities in 82 affected villages in five of the most affected provinces: Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Antique, and Iloilo. In total, we have reached 61,514 people.

Our partners have consulted communities to ensure that the most vulnerable are prioritised to receive the support needed, including single mothers, the elderly and people with disabilities as well as others.

One of our proudest achievements is working with partners to strengthen existing women’s community groups, and empowering them to lead the relief effort. All our distributions have been coordinated by women leaders from the communities where we are working, and supported by community volunteers. The commitment of community members to ensuring that relief goods are distributed to the most vulnerable has been apparent from the outset.

We have also successfully implemented accountability and transparency mechanisms wherever we are working. Some partners have used SMS mobile complaint systems to ensure that community members have a voice if they are unhappy with the distributions.

But as we move forward into the recovery phase of the response, there is still much to do, and many challenges ahead.

One of the key challenges is the 40-metre no build zone that was announced by the government after the typhoon hit. 17,000 families in Northern Cebu currently live in locations prone to flooding and storm surges. Some of the fishing villages very close to the coast are fearful of relocation. We have been told that they feel that their livelihoods will be compromised, and have received no information on where they will be located to and how far they might find themselves from the sea- the source of their livelihood. As a result, there is a sense of insecurity in many of the affected areas, despite the rebuilding efforts underway. We are responding to the communities’ resistance and concerns by advocating for minimal relocation and in-situ housing. In the coming days, we will facilitate a community consultation around this issue, and will work to build up people’s voices so that they can present their concerns to the government.

ActionAid is focused on three key issues in its long term programme:

  1. disaster risk reduction and disaster management policy;
  2. violence against women - advocacy for community-level protection systems to ensure the security of women during disasters;
  3. understanding and complementing the rehabilitation efforts of the government - taking into account the needs of the most vulnerable communities affected in the disaster.

In order to carry out this work, ActionAid will facilitate community planning, that will complement the existing governmental village level planning process.

From day one the response has been heartening. We’re seeing the most excluded and marginalised people finding a platform where they can express their needs and aspirations, and agencies are coming forward to support them. Great effort has gone into a collective response by INGOs, local NGOs and the UN, in collaboration with the Philippines government. We are seeing a new model of collaboration emerging, and ActionAid is excited to be part of it.