The social action arm of the Catholic Church in the Philippines says it has spent about US$60 million building houses for victims of Super Typhoon Haiyan
that devastated the central part of the country in 2013. Aside from shelters, Caritas Philippines has also trained 2,653 local artisans, 16,354 people in safe building awareness, and formed 147 homeowners' associations. "We did not think then that we would be capable of implementing what would be the church's largest-funded, and most comprehensive humanitarian response," Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines said Nov. 18. The church focused on the building of shelters, livelihood programs, community organizing, community-managed disaster risk reduction, ecosystems recovery, and institutional capacity building, among others. The housing program is "more integrated," said the priest, adding that it provides services like water, electricity, and livelihoods. "This is very significant compared to the accomplishments made by the government," said Father Gariguez. Activists and survivors have criticized the government over its slow response to the disaster and the poor quality of its rehabilitation projects
. The church project was implemented by Caritas Philippines with the help of the Catholic Organization for Relief and Development Aid
and Caritas Internationalis member organizations in the United States, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Canada, and Austria. Father Gariguez said Caritas Internationalis
was "instrumental" in ensuring not only the funding of the program but also the presence of experts who help in livelihood projects, community organizing, institutional capacity building, among others. The priest said building more than 30,000 houses "speaks of the dedication and commitment of the Catholic Church to better the lives and restore the dignity of the most vulnerable communities and families affected by typhoon Haiyan." Felix Miguel Sanchez, country representative of Caritas in Spain, lauded the success of the organization's partnership with local counterparts as an "opportunity to renew and improve commitment to save lives."