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Philippines: Long road to recovery for survivors of Typhoon Bopha

15-05-2013 Operational Update No 13/02

More than four months have passed since Eastern Mindanao was hit by a typhoon that destroyed the homes and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people. This is an update on what the ICRC is doing to help them get back on their feet again.

Typhoon Bopha (known locally as Pablo) has had a devastating impact on the south-eastern Philippines, destroying infrastructure and displacing thousands. While continuing to distribute food and other relief items to more than 273,000 people in the two worst-hit regions of Eastern Mindanao, the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross have now launched income generation projects and begun improving communities’ longer-term access to shelter, clean water, and health care.

"Many people lost their homes and livelihoods as a result of the havoc wreaked by the typhoon in December 2012," said Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines. "It is a long and difficult process for them to rebuild their lives from scratch."

"What survivors most need now is help to quickly recover from this harrowing experience and get back on their feet again. The ICRC is providing sustainable access to drinking water and health care, supporting families in their efforts to rebuild longer-lasting shelters, and finding ways to kick-start their livelihoods. At the same time, we are also delivering emergency aid to cover essential needs," Mr Mauchle added.

More than four months have passed since Typhoon Bopha hit Eastern Mindanao. Maria Fe Ayala, a 35-year-old mother from Monkayo, Compostela Valley, says she and her family barely survived the disaster. "My children and I could not go out and risk our necks because even my mother-in-law's house was swept away. I made a small hole and we climbed into it just before our house was destroyed. We laid our bodies flat on the ground… if the rains had not stopped, we would have died from the cold."

Shelter for vulnerable families

In the worst-hit communities of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental provinces, many families continue to live in temporary shelters. Together with the Philippine Red Cross, the ICRC has launched a project to help almost 19,000 people rebuild their homes and provide an income stream for skilled workers in the local community such as carpenters and chainsaw operators.

For families who are struggling to rebuild after their houses were completely destroyed, the project will provide the construction materials and labour needed to build permanent, storm-resilient housing. Other families who lost their homes will be provided with materials and labour for a "skeleton house" that includes the foundation, structure and roof. In addition, community residents will receive training in good construction practices.

Marilyn Donga, whose house was destroyed in the typhoon, has a new home in Campawan, in Davao Oriental province: "Now that we have safe shelter, we can focus on earning an income again so our children can return to school."

From relief to livelihood support

From January to April, relief items were regularly distributed to 273,000 people in all 42 barangays (villages) of the three worst-hit municipalities of Davao Oriental and 35 barangays of the five worst-hit areas of Compostela Valley. People received food such as rice, sardines, salt, cooking oil, coffee, soy sauce and sugar, and such household essentials as jerrycans, buckets, cooking pots, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and soap.

At the same time, cash-for-work programmes are helping to generate income for communities whose crops – and therefore their livelihoods – were totally or partially destroyed.

Along with other community members, Maria Fe volunteered to take part in a cash-for-work programme in Monkayo municipality, which involved desilting the local canal by removing a build-up of mud, refuse and other debris. This was essential to ensuring that irrigation water reached farms.

"I used the money I made to buy food for our family and to replace some of our damaged belongings. It was worth all the hard work," said Ms Fe.

Eleven cash-for-work programmes are benefiting over 2,600 families, with dozens more programmes in the pipeline. In addition, local farmers are receiving corn seed, peanuts, chili seed and other items that will boost harvests and generate income while increasing the availability of food locally.

Improved access to drinking water

Between December and mid-April, emergency distribution systems set up by the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross provided drinkable water to 18,000 people in 14 communities in Cateel and Baganga, in Davao Oriental province.

In an effort to make drinking water available on a more permanent basis, existing community water supply systems damaged in the typhoon are being repaired. Thus far, work to overhaul 11 damaged supply systems serving nearly 27,000 people is under way or has been completed.

ICRC engineers also helped rebuild and improve the water and sanitation systems in the Philippine Red Cross' evacuation camp in New Bataan, Compostela Valley, which provided services to nearly 3,000 people at the height of the emergency.

Enhancing access to health care

With local health facilities suffering significant damage in the typhoon, the ICRC helped meet acute health-care needs by setting up in Baganga, Davao Oriental, a basic health-care unit donated by the Japanese Red Cross. Opened in January, the unit has provided immediate medical attention and psychosocial support to over 7,000 patients during its 11 weeks of operation. Medical professionals seconded to the ICRC from the Red Cross societies of Canada, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan Norway, and the Philippines provided free consultations and treatment.

"The unit ensured people had access to basic health care despite the prevailing situation. It proved essential in covering the gap while badly damaged health facilities were being repaired. It also helped back up existing health services," said Gegham Petrosyan, ICRC health coordinator.

Local health facilities have continued to receive a range of assistance from the ICRC as they return to normal service. The ICRC has supported or is supporting the repair of eight damaged health facilities (village health stations, rural health units and a district hospital) in Davao Oriental, which serve a population of nearly 120,000. People in typhoon-affected areas had uninterrupted access to health care thanks in part to medical supplies provided by the ICRC to five rural health units and one hospital.

For further information, please contact:
Cynthia Lee, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
Ewan Watson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 33 45 or +41 79 244 64 70


Photos

The ICRC has supplied almost 1600 people from 26 villages with maize seed, fertilizer and funding to help them clear the ground.  

Laak, Compostela Valley Province, Philippines.
The ICRC has supplied almost 1600 people from 26 villages with maize seed, fertilizer and funding to help them clear the ground.
© ICRC / D. Easson

The community identified clearing their 1,000-metre irrigation canal as a priority for the cash-for-work programme.  

Tubu Tubu, Monkayo, Compostela Valley Province, Philippines.
The community identified clearing their 1,000-metre irrigation canal as a priority for the cash-for-work programme.
© ICRC / J. Rala

Carpenters from Campawan learn to build storm-resilient houses at the pilot site of the ICRC shelter programme. The ICRC will soon be replicating the programme in Compostela Valley Province.  

ICRC premises, Davao Oriental Province, Philippines.
Carpenters from Campawan learn to build storm-resilient houses at the pilot site of the ICRC shelter programme. The ICRC will soon be replicating the programme in Compostela Valley Province.
© ICRC / B. Lavisurez

The Basic Health Care Unit helped more than 7,000 patients between January and March 2013, offering free medical consultations and treatment.  

Basic Health Care Unit, Baganga, Davao Oriental Province, Philippines.
The Basic Health Care Unit helped more than 7,000 patients between January and March 2013, offering free medical consultations and treatment.
© ICRC / S. Velasco

The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross set up distribution stations and delivered water by road in Cateel and Baganga, benefiting some 18,000 people in 14 communities between December 2012 and mid-April 2013.  

Baganga, Davao Oriental Province, Philippines.
The ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross set up distribution stations and delivered water by road in Cateel and Baganga, benefiting some 18,000 people in 14 communities between December 2012 and mid-April 2013.
© ICRC / S. Velasco