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Philippines: One hundred days on, lives and livelihoods are gradually being rebuilt

14-02-2014 Feature

Along the typhoon-hit Samar coastline, between the devastated municipalities of Basey and Guiuan, construction workers are busy on a roof-top listening to music on their FM radio as they set about repairing a vital structure in the township of Giporlos: the Rural Health Unit.

Giporlos. A nurse gives a patient a check-up during a regular consultation session at the health unit. In the background is the doctor in charge, Dr Marlyn Capanang. 

Giporlos. A nurse gives a patient a check-up during a regular consultation session at the health unit. In the background is the doctor in charge, Dr Marlyn Capanang.
© ICRC / Atishay Abbhi

It is a busy day for Marlyn Capanang, the 43-year-old doctor who runs the health unit in Giporlos. Women have flocked to the clinic with their children for vaccinations that have resumed almost 100 days after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Philippines.

"Everything was floating, the doppler, microscope, refrigerator, laptops, drugs, all of it," recalls Dr Marlyn. Less than 24 hours after the typhoon hit, and conscious of her responsibility to the community, Dr Marlyn and her staff had moved the clinic and whatever medical supplies they could recover to a municipal building. Continuing to provide care, however, remained a huge challenge.

Giporlos. The Rural Health Unit was destroyed and most of the equipment with it when Typhoon Yolanda hit. The facility is being repaired with support from the ICRC and is expected to be ready within 30 days. 

Giporlos. The Rural Health Unit was destroyed and most of the equipment with it when Typhoon Yolanda hit. The facility is being repaired with support from the ICRC and is expected to be ready within 30 days.
© ICRC / Atishay Abbhi

In the meantime, the ICRC with Philippine and Finnish Red Cross partners were setting up a basic health-care unit in nearby Balangiga, to which all the cases from Giporlos clinic would later be transferred. In mid-December, Dr Marlyn and her staff moved the clinic from the municipal building into a tent and began regular health checks using donated medical supplies. Less than a month later, however, with memories of their ‘floating clinic’ still fresh in mind, Cyclone Agaton hit the coast, blowing away their tent, equipment and vehicles – and taking with it any hope of an early restoration of health services.

The ICRC immediately arranged for the clinic to be moved back to its original building and have the structure repaired. One hundred days on from the destruction wrought by Yolanda, Dr Marlyn, her staff and patients are now back in the partially repaired health unit, where the familiar queues and crying babies are accompanied by the sound of hammer blows and singing from the workmen on the roof.

The most painful memory

Barangay San Fernando, Basey. Maria Rabara and her husband Cholito in their sari-sari (grocery) shop. Their main source of livelihood before typhoon Yolanda struck was coconut farming and fishing. 

Barangay San Fernando, Basey. Maria Rabara and her husband Cholito in their sari-sari (grocery) shop. Their main source of livelihood before typhoon Yolanda struck was coconut farming and fishing.
© ICRC / Atishay Abbhi

Some 160 kilometres away in Barangay San Fernando, Maria Rabara is trying to rebuild the livelihood of her family of seven. In her sari-sari (grocery) shop overlooking the coast, she is helping her husband Cholito with his fishing net while attending to customers. Maria recalls the fateful morning of 8 November, seeing their pump boat (outrigger canoe) washed away and their rice crops destroyed, along with her house and everything in it.

The most painful memory, however, is the loss of their 135 coconut trees which each year yielded more than 500 coconut fruits worth 15 pesos (about a third of a US dollar) per kilogram. "It will be ten years before we can rely on the coconut trees again,” says Maria, adding, ”I know the relief goods will not last forever so I took out a loan to set up this store.”

Barangay San Fernando, Basey. A child plays in front of a ruined house on the coast. 

Barangay San Fernando, Basey. A child plays in front of a ruined house on the coast.
© ICRC / Atishay Abbhi

Before the typhoon, Maria's husband used to buy rice seeds from Tacloban to produce about 30 sacks of rice, some of which they ate, selling the rest. "Now there is nowhere to buy seeds from," says Maria, who is saving the 30 kilograms of rice seeds she got from the ICRC to plant out by the end of February. She is being very cautious since many local people planted seeds early and lost them to cyclone Agaton. Other farmers, like the Rabaras, were also given a cash grant of 4,100 pesos (91 US dollars) by the ICRC, along with fertilizers, to help them re-establish their livelihoods.

Continuing relief and livelihood assistance has eased the burden on Maria, but a bigger worry is causing her sleepless nights. "I am afraid to live here,” says a teary-eyed Maria, adding that she is willing to leave her village once a relocation plan has been established.

A hundred days on, the trauma and memories of a life washed away are as vivid to Maria as the clear sky that finally greeted her after three weeks of incessant, intimidating rain and the accompanying fear of losing all her crops and having to start all over again.

 

Restoring livelihoods in typhoon-hit Samar Island - Interactive map

One hundred days after Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) caused massive devastation in Central Philippines, rebuilding work is well under way. Humanitarian needs remain high on Samar, where the typhoon first made landfall, so the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement has been working hard to deliver relief aid. At the same time, recovery programmes are enabling families to rebuild their livelihoods and improve their access to clean water and health care. Here is a snapshot of our response to Typhoon Haiyan since 17 November 2013.