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Rebuilding in the aftermath of Haiyan

Driving in the car from Ormoc to Tacloban I see destruction.

Three months after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated parts of the Philippines, debris and damage remain. Homes, schools and much of the infrastructure are still in a state of disrepair – this I had seen before but what I couldn’t look away from were the coconut trees, or more correctly, the destroyed fields where coconut forests were.

Coconuts are a very important part of the Filipino economy. The Philippines are the world’s largest exporter of coconuts with 25 million Filipinos directly and indirectly dependent on the industry.

But for small-scale coconut farmers in Ormoc and Tacloban it will be another three to five years before new trees will be ready to bear fruit again.

I was deployed to the Philippines as part of ChildFund’s emergency response team with colleagues from America, Guatemala, Senegal, Japan and Australia. Together we worked alongside our Filipino colleagues and more than 140 volunteers!


A damaged coconut forest in Tacloban.

In a major disaster, like Typhoon Haiyan, there are two stages to our emergency response. First is the relief phase, which is about immediate needs for children and their families – food, clean water, essential non-food items and shelter. When I arrived in the Philippines, in early January, ChildFund had been helping with relief needs for almost two months. My role, with three others, was to develop ChildFund’s recovery strategy – the second stage of our response. This phase is long term. ChildFund will be helping to rebuild the lives of families who have lost everything.

We are working on initial solutions to help people, like providing seeds to grow vegetables or small boats for fishing. We will also be providing vocational and job training for young people and parents, and helping to connect them with the business sector to support them to regain and develop their livelihoods.

Livelihoods recovery is very much related to the community and what suits them. Currently, there are thousands of people in the Philippines trying to fix and rebuild their damaged homes – we see this as an opportunity to generate an income, especially for young people, as this will be a very long process.

Children are going back to school but many schools, especially in Tacloban, are still damaged. Lots of classrooms were destroyed so teachers are using makeshift learning spaces. To help kids return to school we are using our Child-Centred Spaces (CCS) as temporary classrooms.

Ninh visiting a Child-Centred Space in Ormoc.

Our Child-Centred Spaces are still very active. They are open on the weekend so children can receive some nutritious food and safe drinking water, and have a safe space to play and receive support from our trained volunteers.

Yet, our recovery phase is not just about responding to this disaster. It is also about helping communities to reduce their vulnerability to future disasters – which, in a country that on average is hit by 20 typhoons each year, is critical.

The government does have a legal framework in place for Disaster Risk Management but after much discussion with local barangay (the Filipino term for the lowest level unit of the country’s administrative system) leaders, it has become apparent that there is a big gap at the grassroots level. ChildFund will help to fill this gap.

By educating children and their communities in the Philippines about risks and hazards, and helping them to prepare for future disasters, we hope to save lives, lessen suffering and reduce the impact on long-term development.

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