Six months on - Typhoon Haiyan survivors settle into new homes

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The shelter programme is beginning to have an impact with families moving into newly constructed homes © Veejay Villafranca / IFRC

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

After Typhoon Haiyan forced them to flee from their childhood village in central Leyte, Jerry and Irene Batic had little choice but to seek refuge in a hastily erected shelter of rotten lumber and coconut leaves built on nearby land owned by a relative.

Months later, with a new baby to care for, the young couple are ready to embark on a new life in one of eight newly constructed Red Cross model timber frame houses. Each house is roomy by local standards, measuring 6.5 metres by 2.4 metres. The new homes include high quality corrugated iron roofing and are built to last up to ten years.

“It’s much bigger than what we’re used to,” says rice farmer Jerry, who is still stunned by their good fortune. “It has a concrete floor, concrete pillars on all four sides, and a latrine and washbasin.”

These Red Cross model homes in Sitio Capahuan, Tabontabon, were completed in record time by team of a dozen hired carpenters, mason and labourers under the watchful eye of retired civil engineer Aben Bulaysac, a longstanding volunteer with the Philippine Red Cross.

“The design of the house is based on traditional homes but it’s stronger and the basic engineering standards are higher,” says Bulaysac. “The roofing sheets are stronger, the concrete floor is reinforced with steel and the cement mix is of a higher quality than normal.”

It’s tough working all day in the sweltering heat but part of the self-recovery agreement between the Red Cross and householders is that they contribute labour if they are able to do so. Just a week before, Jerry was helping to dig the foundations and cart away soil.

His neighbour Laudino Maballo was also helping another team of labourers erect the block work walls of his house, the second to be built. Maballo and his elderly mother Florentina Magiones couldn’t stop beaming.

“We just escaped from being killed when a tree fell on our house during Yolanda (Haiyan),” he says. “This house will totally change our life.”

Carpenter Macario Nacional also feels fortunate. He was recruited by the Red Cross at a time when he badly needed the work. As a skilled tradesman, he earns 500 Pesos (USD 11) a day, while unskilled labourers earn 300 Pesos (USD 7), equivalent to the minimum wage in this part of Leyte.

Because of a shortage of skilled labour locally, Red Cross is also keen to hire and train locals as carpenters and masons to fill the skills gap and give a boost to livelihoods in the area.

Philippine Red Cross’ shelter officer in Leyte, Allan Mosqueda, says the pilot housing project is gearing up to erect 500 model temporary (core) houses in Leyte, and will be done in stages.

“Overall, I’m happy with what we’re doing and the pace at which we’re doing it,” Mosqueda says. “The good thing about doing the pilot in stages is we don’t rush to build all the homes at once, so we get to sort out the growing pains.”

Shelter teams are ramping up the pilot phase with distributions of corrugated iron sheets and shelter repair kits to hundreds of families across the typhoon affected areas in the next few weeks. Under current funding, 6,000 beneficiaries in Leyte whose homes were destroyed will be temporarily rehoused and up to 8,000 will get help with repairs.

In all, 300,000 corrugated iron sheets are on order and their delivery will be staggered over the coming months. Some 30,000 of these have already arrived in the Cebu warehouse, from where they are shipped to islands across central Visayas for distribution by the Philippine Red Cross shelter teams.