Friday 23 March 2018

Embers of hope flickering as Philippines rebuilds

Signs of recovery in the Philippines can be found in the thousands of students attending makeshift classrooms and locals earning money through cash-for-work programmes.

Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

Four months on and the Filipinos face a long, hard road to recovery after Typhoon Haiyan wiped out the homes and livelihoods of 1.47 million people but hope flickers among the debris.

People are sleeping in makeshift homes covered in tarpaulin or else in bunk houses with one family to a room. Not only were their fishing boats destroyed but also another source of income – millions of coconut trees.

Since the 16-hour storm of 275kph on November 8, 2013, the strongest super storm ever recorded, the homeless are now in temporary shelters, the electricity is back on, water is running and society is starting to churn again.

The greatest light of recovery is seen in the makeshift classrooms filled with eager-to-learn students that populate every town and the locals who are earning money rebuilding through the cash-for-work programmes.

“A huge amount has been achieved over the last four months through the immense efforts of affected communities and the Filipino government, supported by the international community including the Irish Government,” says Lisa Doherty of Irish Aid.

“But it will be a very long road for people here to rebuild their lives,” added Ms Doherty, the deputy director of Emergency  and Recovery.

So far Irish Aid has given €4.1m to the recovery effort with junior minister for development and trade Joe Costello visiting Tacloban yesterday.

Thirteen-year-old Christian, who lives in eastern Samar where the typhoon first made landfall, is sponsored by Irish woman Kaiori Creed through children's charity, Plan Ireland.

Christian's mother, Fai, said without Ms Creed's support her son would have had to leave school and go to work to help the family as they lost everything in the typhoon.

“We live in a bunker house now, I have a girl in college, we lost our home and my store was in front of the high school, which was completely destroyed,” said Fai.

Child labour and prostitution is a major concern for the children's charity and it has developed child-friendly spaces which 17,274 children have accessed.

They play and do their homework there after school, and are given emotional support to cope after the storm as they no longer want to play in what was their number one playground, the Pacific Ocean. The children in the Philippines now describe the water as “criminal”.

Plan is working in eight heavily-impacted areas in the worst-hit parts of the Philippines and is kick-starting the economy through cash-for-work programmes.

“While having met immediate urgent shelter and food needs of over 200,000 people, we know we have to keep looking forward,” said Dualta Roughneen, Plan's disaster management co-ordinator.

Filipino people “have been the real drivers of recovery,” added Mr Roughneen.

In eastern Samar bodies were found up until last  week. Debris still lines the roads and coconut trees lie flat on the mountain sides but, despite stark appearances, recovery has taken hold – most evident is Tacloban.

“After the typhoon there was no hope, dead bodies were all out there on the highway, people in Tacloban saw no future for the city,” explained Jose, a hotel worker who was back working two months after the super storm.

“Now with the streets clean and the help from foreign countries we are seeing some small hope again,” he added.

Signs begging for water have been replaced with ‘thank you' posters in every town in eastern Samar.

Mr Costello visited Tacloban yesterday and  was expected to announce additional Irish Aid funding.

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