Six months on from Haiyan - Physical recovery progress is clear but the long term focus should be on poverty

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Haime tallies trucks hauling debris at Santo Nino. © Lesley Wright, UNDP Philippines

Six months after one of the strongest tropical storms ever recorded hit the Philippines, UNDP says that though the physical signs of recovery are impressive, much needs to be done to prevent the storm from continuing to exacerbate suffering in the country.

“The Philippines authorities at all levels and affected communities have played a powerful role, both in the immediate response to the disaster, which included successfully evacuating hundreds of thousands of people to safety, and in spearheading recovery,” said UNDP Administrator Helen Clark in an opinion piece released today in the Huffington Post. She added that roads have now been cleared, 15 percent of homes have been repaired, with over 120,000 households receiving help to rebuild, and nearly all the damaged schools and hospitals have now re-opened.

But she cautioned that full recovery could span a decade or more, and called for long term engagement from the international community that focussed on more than physical reconstruction, but also on building disaster resilience and reducing vulnerability to future crises that could deepen inequality and poverty. “Recovery is about more than the vital task of building homes and structures. It is also about building greater resilience to natural hazards,” she said.

“After the immediate relief phase in the Philippines, real recovery can be based on building back sustainably and improving on what existed before. This is very much what The Philippines authorities are planning for.”

As the Philippines commemorates six months of recovery after the storm, which killed more than 6,200 people and displaced four million from their homes, in most of the affected areas the humanitarian and emergency phase is now transitioning into plans for longer-term recovery.

UNDP played a significant role in helping areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan meet immediate needs such as food, medicine and shelter relief, as well as stop-gap governance support. Since the storm, UNDP has been providing temporary jobs to affected communities through debris clearing activities.

This has improved community access to infrastructure, minimized health and safety risks, and afforded temporary employment to residents of hard-hit areas. However, six months since the disaster, as the programme transitions from relief to longer-term recovery, there is a need to focus attention to long-term and sustainable sources of income.

It is important to enhance affected communities’ earning capacity and, ultimately, promote livelihood resiliency.

Key results so far:

• Through emergency employment and the provision of heavy equipment, over 500,000 cubic metres of debris have been cleared in Tacloban alone, enabling the recovery of 15 hospitals, 744 schools, 620 daycare centers, 622 municipal buildings, 1,746 kilometers of roads, 970 kilometers of drains and 600 items of other essential infrastructure, such as clinics, bridges, churches and gymnasiums;

• More than 42,000 people– almost 35 percent of whom are women-- have secured temporary jobs in UNDP’s early recovery programme in the Visayas;

• Through UNDP’s technical and financial support, Tacloban’s city dumpsite, Santo Nino, has improved its operations and minimized the environmental damage associated with emergency disposal resulting from the typhoon. UNDP has also helped Ormoc City to improve landfill operations at its municipal facility; and

• By providing six mobile saw mills, funds for emergency employment, and technical advice, UNDP is helping coconut farmers to recover as many damaged coconut trees as possible in Roxas and Ormoc. UNDP is helping coconut cooperatives collect, transport process and distribute the crop and lumber from damaged trees, generating livelihoods for many who no longer have an income.

UNDP’s recovery focus:

• Through the provision of small grants, training, equipment and technical advice, UNDP is helping to remove debris and manage the mountains of waste created by the storm, bolstering the informal recycling sector, and improving city waste collection and landfill operations;

• By providing emergency jobs to affected people, UNDP is augmenting the recovery, and preventing a slide backwards into poverty;

• UNDP provided training is helping affected people diversify their incomes and make a living;

• UNDP is assisting the government to map future areas of vulnerability to disasters should another storm strike the area;

• UNDP assistance is helping local and central government restore records pertaining to land ownership and land titles, as well as household surveys to identify vulnerable families;

• UNDP is helping local government to restore essential services; and

• UNDP programmes are repairing damaged infrastructure.

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