Two weeks after super typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the central Philippines the scale of the devastation is slowly sinking in. as people pick the pieces and carry on with their lives, available evidence shows that the rebuilding process will take long and will be tedious. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the death toll from Typhoon Haiyan currently stands at 5,235, with another 1,613 people still listed as missing. More than 13 million people are directly affected, with 4.4 million being displaced and more than one million houses damaged, approximately half of those are completely destroyed. Whilst the death toll is luckily not comparable to recent disasters the scale of the physical destruction is tremendous.
Life-saving assistance is still urgently required, particularly food, water and shelter. Affected communities have access to small food stocks, but are increasingly concerned about the lack of food in the long term, with limited or no access to markets.
Communities are in need of better shelter, nutrition and clean water to prevent a further spread of acute respiratory infections in the coming months. As foreign medical teams that have focused on trauma injuries begin to leave the country, gaps will occur for basic health care. Operational health facilities are reportedly overstretched, and there is still overall poor coverage of services. The government has formed a high-level national task force to ensure fast track transition from relief efforts to rehabilitation and rebuilding of the affected areas.
The government is exploring to build 200,000 units. If local and international agencies – including UN-Habitat – can support the reconstruction of 400,000 units this leaves 500,000 houses that will have to be rebuilt by their owners with little material or financial support or no external help at all. Wherever possible people have started returning to their plots and can be seen to rebuild their houses with salvaged material and with whatever tools and material they can buy or receive from the government and the international community. Such efforts need to be supported as fast as possible to ensure that salvaged building materials as well as timber of fallen coconut trees are used as much as possible and in the safest possible way. It is critical to ensure that acceptable resettlement options are provided to communities that had their houses in seriously unsafe locations or find themselves in newly designated no build zones.
This is of particular concern for fisher folks who lived along the coastlines and who were most affected by storm surges brought by the typhoon.
UN-Habitat is working with the national government and professional groups on guidelines for building back safer houses, provides planning expertise towards more sustainable land use plans and is working with provincial and local governments to develop recovery plans.