Over 14 million people have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan – the strongest storm ever – after it ripped through the Philippines. The disaster left over six thousand people dead, thousands more still missing and millions of people struggling to survive.

We have already supported more than 61,000 people with essential items and met so many inspirational women whose strength and spirit form the core of the relief efforts. Here are some of their stories:

"We protect each other. We are not a village anymore. We are a tribe."

- Rowena, 51

Rowena is 51. She is one of several leaders in the village of San Fernando, in Leyte.

"During the storm, the refrigerator became a boat. My son took everything out of it and took the door off. We tied it to the rafters and put five of my grandchildren in it: a 6 month year old baby, and a 2, a 3 and a 4 year old. They were freezing. They were so scared they stopped crying and talking and just sat in the fridge in silence. All we could hear were the strong winds racing around outside.

"For hours we hung on. We were speechless, hopeless. We were in shock. I just kept counting my grandchildren over and over to make sure they were all still there. We thought it was the last day of our lives.

"Everything was covered in mud. For 2 nights we slept outside. But of course, we didn’t sleep very much. Since then, I have been doing all I can to contribute to the relief efforts for our village. I am one of several village councillors, so I help to organise distributions.

"After the storm, outsiders came into the village and were thieving. We were scared, so I started the security committee for the village. And why not? It was the obvious thing to do and I knew I could do it.

"Now, the women of the village are scared, especially at night. They’re scared that people might intrude on their houses. They see men staring in at their windows in the night time, so we made a new system. When you see someone outside your house or you hear someone, you scream, and all of your neighbours are obliged to respond. And they do. This makes us feel much safer. We protect each other. We are not a village anymore. We are a tribe."

ActionAid is working with our partner, WeDpro, to support women like Rowena in the relief effort by providing food relief, shelter repair kits, and psychosocial support.

"We have already received food aid, but this is the most comprehensive pack that contains what we really need."

- Marie Ann

Marie Ann first heard that a big typhoon was heading towards the island whilst watching TV. Knowing that her grandfather would struggle to evacuate to the school in a hurry, Marie Ann helped him and her siblings move early to wait until the storm passed. The next morning as the typhoon grew nearer they realised her great uncle and aunt hadn’t joined them in the now crowded school building. The elderly couple were on their own and vulnerable, so Marie Ann decided to go and get them.

As she stepped outside the wind was overwhelming, ripping off roofs and whipping debris into the air. Marie Ann decided to brave it and go to help her relatives. She arrived to find her great uncle shaking violently, traumatised by the typhoon. As she guided them to the school, the only other people outside were women, many of whom had also ventured out to save loved ones, desperately clinging to each other.

Her quick and heroic actions saved her family. Marie Ann’s story is one of many that show the crucial role that women play as first responders in a disaster.

As Marie Ann received her family pack of food, sanitary and hygiene items, and tools for fixing her home, she said "We have already received food aid, but this is the most comprehensive pack that contains what we really need."

After disasters the emergency response can be very confusing for affected communities, not knowing when help will arrive and what that looks like can be stressful and frustrating. Here, people know exactly who is entitled to what, when, why, and are free to give feedback which is quickly acted upon.

Read more about Marie Ann's heroism.

"The people in my house are getting sick because there are so many of us now living together. We can only do so much – we need support to recover."

- Imelda, 28

On the day Haiyan struck, Imelda saved seven families, leading them out of their bamboo shacks and battling with them through knee-high water to safety. But when she got home, she looked out of her window and saw her mother 50 meters away, her arms wrapped around a coconut tree. She called out to her but there was nothing she could do. The storm had already hit.

When the storm passed, Imelda found her mother. Miraculously, she had survived. But her six baby cousins hadn’t been so lucky. "I can’t believe they’re gone," she said.

The morning after the storm, Imelda got up and faced the devastation that surrounded her. She pooled all of the money she had and walked 11 kilometres to Tacloban airport, determined to get to Manila to bring back supplies to her village. The walk took her five hours, as she made her way around the debris that was heaped all over the road. Two days later, she arrived in San Joaquin, and was able to feed the seven families now residing in her house.

She is relieved that help has arrived – that ActionAid and partners WeDpro have come to her village to support the community-led relief effort.

"There is so much to do here. People don’t have houses. They don’t have enough food, and they need medical attention. The people in my house are getting sick because there are so many of us now living together. We can only do so much – we need support to recover," she said.

ActionAid is working with WeDpro in San Joaquin to support the community to rebuild their homes. We’ll be supporting them to rebuild better, so that if another typhoon hits, families aren’t so vulnerable.

Read more about Imelda's courage.

Donate to the Haiyan disaster response