100 days after Yolanda, enormous need for aid remains

Delon Porcalla, Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - February 17, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - As the country marked 100 days yesterday since being hit by one of the most powerful typhoons on record, an enormous need for assistance remains unmet, but the government has vowed to “build back better.”

The United Nations warned that millions of survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda were still without adequate shelter 100 days after the disaster.

“The authorities, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations, and the Filipino people should be commended for the pace of progress, but we cannot afford to be complacent,” UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Philippines Luiza Carvalho said in a statement yesterday.

“The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical,” she noted.

She also said the UN has raised more than $300 million for the humanitarian effort this year that was expected to cost $788 million, and priority would go to providing durable shelters and livelihoods.

Malacañang has vowed that the government would build permanent structures in the Visayas that was severely hit by Yolanda as the government prepares for the onset of the rainy season in the middle of the year.

In his weekend interview aired over Radyo ng Bayan, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said that new school buildings, municipal halls, public markets and town centers would be constructed, and affected families in temporary shelters “would be provided permanent housing.”

“The government is firmly determined to carry out massive rehabilitation efforts in all 171 municipalities and cities affected by this unprecedented calamity,” Coloma said, adding that there would also be “new human settlements with facilities for livelihood activities.”

President Aquino also directed members of his Cabinet to prepare a detailed roadmap for effective response to disasters before the onset of the rainy season in June.

Coloma said this would include “adoption of new emergency alert protocols for storm surges, floods and landslides; strict implementation of no-build zones along coastlines; and higher standards for disaster resiliency of buildings and infrastructure.”

Moreover, the Aquino administration has prioritized the setting up of an all-weather communications system, including satellite phones and mobile communications kits, to “ensure uninterrupted connectivity despite power service interruption.”

“The Philippines and other disaster-prone countries must break the cycle of prediction, devastation and rehabilitation by adopting the principle of build-back-better and being more productive,” Coloma noted.

“In order to build back better, reconstruction and rehabilitation must be needs-based and grounded on concrete realities at the grassroots level... For this reason, (rehabilitation czar) Panfilo Lacson has prioritized local government units that have done their homework in preparing a post-disaster needs assessment analysis and corresponding rehabilitation plan,” he added.

Yolanda tore across the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year, killing 6,200 people and leaving nearly 2,000 others missing. It also destroyed or severely damaged 1.1 million houses, leaving more than four million people homeless.

Carvalho said millions of jobs were also destroyed or impaired after Yolanda tore down or damaged 33 million coconut trees, flooded fields with salt water, and swept away or wrecked 30,000 fishing vessels.

Apart from addressing food and health needs, the international aid effort provided tents and tarpaulin shelters to half a million families, while emergency employment programs pumped money into the devastated local economies, the UN said.

Many of the devastated areas rely on subsistence fishing and farming and are on the path of most of the 20 or so typhoons and storms that strike the country each year.

“As the Philippines marks 100 days since the devastating super typhoon struck, our thoughts are very much with the survivors who mourn the loss of so many friends and loved ones,” Carvalho said.

“We are supporting the authorities to help survivors find closure and ensure that the affected regions build back better and safer so that the next massive storm does not bring the terrible levels of devastation that we saw,” she added.

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