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Philippines Typhoon: ‘People First’ in Restoring Homes
By David Tereshchuk*
February 25, 2014-As the people of the Philippines struggle to recover after their worst-ever typhoon, Haiyan-or Yolanda, to use its local name-residents of Calogcog, an especially hard-hit community in Leyte Province, are preparing to rebuild their homes with support from UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
Since the disaster on November 8, 2013, overall humanitarian response strategies undertaken by the Philippines government in combination with humanitarian agencies working under United Nations guidance have been seeking to address survivors’ needs for food, restored livelihoods, and shelter.
UMCOR is playing its part in this broad recovery effort, and in Calogcog has prioritized the reconstruction of permanent housing. It decided on this focus and this barangay, or community, after an assiduous process of consultation with community members themselves.
“The community’s classrooms and schools had become emergency evacuation locations,” reports Ciony Eduarte, director of UMCOR’s disaster response office in the Philippines. “When classes resumed in January, the homeless had nowhere to go. More than 100 days after the devastation, people continue to live under tarps and in temporary shelters.”
Commitment to a Permanent Solution
UMCOR’s experience in humanitarian work has instilled in the organization a strong commitment to move as swiftly as possible to provide permanent homes. In Calogcog, rather than relocating families, UMCOR has prioritized the task of enabling them to stay and to rebuild their homes.
This long-term provision is being undertaken amid continuing discussions about what areas should be “no-build” zones because they appear subject to future hazards-mostly those sites within 40 meters (131 feet) of a shoreline.
It has been an important factor for UMCOR’s discussions with the barangay leaders that the damaged homes in the community are located in a zone considered relatively safe from future threat, where fresh building is allowed, and where local families have decided they want to stay.
UMCOR has been establishing a field office within the program area to help continue community consultations, assess housing needs, and chart a way forward. The planned rehabilitation program seeks to provide beneficiaries with permanent solutions rather than transitional housing.
‘Dignified Giving to Dignified People’
UMCOR’s overriding concern is to avoid what can happen too often after major disasters-that temporary and transitional accommodation will, under pressure of time and resource shortages, unintentionally become all too permanent, and the former normalcy of people’s lives is never properly regained.
“We are working here to fully restore a community. Our guiding principle is “Dignified giving to dignified people,” individuals with Christ within them,” Eduarte says.
* David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who regularly contributes to www.UMCOR.org.