Manila's Haiyan recovery efforts 'have been a disaster'

Failure to address survivors' needs has shown how Philippines 'has lost focus on its sustainable development goals'
Manila's Haiyan recovery efforts 'have been a disaster'

Years after the destruction brought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines, survivors continue to wait for the rehabilitation of their communities. (Photo by Vincent Go) 

Sarah Dela Pena, 37, survived the onslaught of Super Typhoon Haiyan in the central Philippines.

Today, she still lives by the sea where thousands of people perished in 2013.

She said a relocation site offered by the government to survivors "is equally dangerous and far from our livelihoods."

"There is no water and electricity there," Dela Pena said. " At least here, near the sea, we find food, and we survive," she told ucanews.com.

Year after year, the same issues about rehabilitating communities devastated by the typhoon are aired by survivors.

"But nothing real and acceptable has happened," said Lita Bagunas of Giporlos, a town in Eastern Samar province.

"We are not moving to houses at the relocation site because we found out they are substandard," she said.

Rina Reyes, leader of a group of typhoon survivors in the central Philippines, said their current situation is reflective of the priorities of the government.

Achieving sustainable goals

The Philippines committed in 2015 to achieving by 2030 the 17 sustainable development goals laid down by the United Nations.

However, the country has already lost focus on its goals, said Reyes. She said the government has failed to take care of its "risk reduction management efforts."

"Any development should start with Haiyan victims," said Reyes, adding that, "disaster can have a devastating impact on development."

She said communities can lose their homes, people can lose their livelihoods, and families can lose their loved ones.

"If we look at the situation, what can it tell us about Filipinos’ achievements towards the goals?" Reyes asked.

Many survivors described the government's rehabilitation efforts as "hollow and useless."

"How can they manage to trick us into thinking that everything is back to normal again," said Vincent Basiano, who has been lobbying for decent housing and livelihoods for typhoon survivors.

"If only [government leaders] could see for themselves the real conditions of small children and families in relocation areas," he said.

Six years after the disaster, most survivors still live in temporary houses, which are reportedly "substandard" and without electricity or water.

Church's commitment

The Catholic Church's social action arm, meanwhile, vowed to continue working in disaster-affected areas despite its estranged relationship with the government.

"The Catholic Church has remained true to its mandate, that is, to witness, journey with, and be of service to the poorest and the most vulnerable," said Jing Rey Henderson of Caritas Philippines.

Together with its partners, Caritas was able to raise funds and implement 3.2 billion-pesos worth of recovery and rehabilitation projects that have benefited more than 1.8 million people.

"These interventions were not just one shot deals," said Henderson, adding that the organization makes sure to integrate its humanitarian response with long-term development programs.

She said communities under Caritas' programs "are way better than five years before, with better and more stable incomes, and healthier and happier recipients."

"Our government can sure learn a lesson or two from how we implement things," said Henderson.

"It's high time we recognize that there is a vacuum in terms of accountability and transparency in how we do service delivery in government," she said, adding that the Catholic Church "is ready to help change this."

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