MANILA, November 23, 2013 — Two weeks after Typhoon Haiyan – known as Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines - struck the Central Region of this country, hope emerges as makeshift stalls selling fruits and some local businesses have reopened to cater to the needs of fellow survivors. Both local and foreign aid continues to pour in, and some roads are already passable, easing the way for growing relief operations.
BY THE NUMBERS
As of November 20, 2013, at 6:00 am, the NDRRMC (National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council) updated the number of typhoon casualties with 4,011 reported dead, 18, 557 injured, and 1,602 still missing.
Of the 2,145,359 families affected, 929,893 families were displaced. Displaced families are being served by both inside (85,652 families) and outside (844,241 families) evacuation centers.
The number of damaged houses are still estimated at 648,160 with 323,454 houses being totally damaged and 324,706 houses being partially damaged.
Total damage costs are estimated at ₱12B ($275M), with damages in infrastructure and agriculture reaching ₱2B ($46M) and ₱10B ($229M), respectively. The typhoon compromised about 80% of the coconut trees - a major source of livelihood for the locals. It also caused physical and agricultural damage in provinces responsible for one-third of the rice production in the country according to UN food agency. Total rebuilding costs are estimated at ₱250B ($5B).
Power outages are still being experienced in some provinces and municipalities in the affected regions, while communication lines were restored as of Nov. 16. Water supplies are scarce, however, and even non-existent in some municipalities. On the other hand, restoration continues, and one severely affected province, Leyte, had restored an efficient water supply as of Nov. 15.
MORE THAN STATISTICS
Focusing on the numbers alone is insufficient to describe the vast scale of personal tragedy and economic damage wrought by the recent typhoon. The reported statistics can never truly encompass the horrific devastation that befell those individuals, businesses, and institutions that found themselves in the path of this storm.
People have lost both lives and livelihoods, houses and homes. Children were orphaned; parents made childless. Officials, policemen, soldiers, rescuers, journalists, ordinary citizens – everyone faced the same devastating fate on one level or another.
Currently, survivors and survival are a top priority. Unfortunately, there have been reported cases of desperate victims looting grocery stores and malls. There are also questions on the status of some 117 criminals who swam their way out of prison when the typhoon hit, though at least some of these escapes seemed motivated by inmates’ concerns about the safety of immediate family members.
Some typhoon survivors have already been transferred to Cebu and Metro Manila via airlift to stay with their relatives, all in the hopes of starting life anew.
On other fronts, two main orphanages were badly damaged by the typhoon and needed to evacuate their occupants. Orphaned children are currently placed in institutions like the “Shelter for Abused Women and Children” and will eventually be put up for adoption.
The President has already declared a State of Calamity in several areas to ensure an immediate response towards the needs of typhoon-stricken areas. The State of Calamity declaration imposes a price ceiling on basic necessities. Some goods have been put under a price freeze. The president said in a report that the government will also work to prevent the occurrence of hoarding and overpricing.
Meanwhile, the once-thriving coastal city of Tacloban a rubble-strewn disaster area with dead people still waiting to be identified and properly buried.
Still, the sheer desire to survive has not overwhelmed or dampened the spirits of the Filipino people who are working hard to restore some semblance of normal life. Some petrol stations in the devastated areas have resumed operations and many motorcycle owners are seen lining up to get at least a liter of gasoline.
Some groceries have reopened on a “while supplies last” basis due to the absence of suppliers. There are also sightings of makeshift homes and stalls selling fruits like apples and bananas.
Classes in higher educational institutions are reportedly scheduled to resume in Jan. 15, 2014. However, those that can operate normally and won’t compromise the living conditions of their students are to follow the normal schedule for the second semester.
Farmers whose crops have been destroyed by the typhoon will be given assistance in terms of supplies and equipment to sow new seeds before the current planting season ends. Families will also receive vegetable seeds to be sown on a timely basis for the next harvest season.
Energy Secretary Carlos Petilla vows to have power fully restored in the entire Visayas (central region) by December 24 in time for Christmas. Meanwhile, some electricity-powered areas are expected to have 50% of power restored by the end of this month.
Despite zero reports of disease outbreaks in typhoon-stricken areas, the Department of Health (DOH) is still on high alert due to the threat of epidemics that can be caused by a lack of access to safe water or adequate sanitation.
According to a report from the Philippine news network GMA, around ₱24B of the country’s budget is currently being mobilized to facilitate aid to stricken areas. Additionally, ₱1.2B in Calamity Funds and ₱824M in Contingency Funds have been reserved.
Total foreign aid has reached close to ₱13B ($320M) with ₱7B ($160M) in the form of cash. Keeping to its promise of transparency and accountability when managing humanitarian donations, the government has launched the website tracker, Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH), to monitor foreign aid pouring in.
As expected, a substantial amount of donated money is coming in from OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) who are helping their affected relatives. Yearly overseas remittances comprise 10 percent of the country’s GDP, but this number usually goes up to 15 percent in times of crisis.
Since houses and infrastructures are almost nonexistent in typhoon-stricken areas, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts can boost the country’s real estate by improving land and increasing land value. People in the real estate business will be encouraged to bid in the market in the efforts of rebuilding affected areas.
Despite the expected 1 percent drop in the GDP growth, experts say 2013 GDP growth can still fall within the government’s target range of 6-7 percent. They say affected areas comprise only a small portion of the GDP, and the situation should prove highly manageable.
Agricultural exports, though greatly impacted, only comprise a relatively small portion of overall exports. In fact, ambitious rebuilding programs would send a positive message to foreign investors demonstrating the country’s ability to bounce back from a great tragedy. Likewise, an historically impoverished region will have the opportunity to contribute - with greater impact - to the national economic growth.
Help continues to arrive in various forms.
- The Philippine Army is distributing relief goods to far-flung areas that haven’t been reached yet.
- Local individuals – many who are likely survivors of the typhoon, too - and national government officials and agencies continue to pitch in beyond the call of duty.
- Willing volunteers from all over the world – a mix of native Filipinos and foreign volunteers – have clearly gone out of their way to extend help and continue to do so.
Today, the Filipinos’ tradition of helping each other with all that they can is impressively exemplified not just within the nation but also throughout the world, as people from all walks of life continue to contribute to the efforts to aid and rebuild this nation.
For readers who may be interested in helping out, making a donation to relief efforts, or even in making plans to volunteer, please visit Volunteer for the Visayans.
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