After Six Months, Typhoon Haiyan Victims Continue to Demand Relief and Justice in the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan caused a ship to ran aground in Leyte, destroying houses in a crowded coastal village. Photo by Alessandro Pavone/ Save the Children

Typhoon Haiyan caused a ship to ran aground in Leyte, destroying houses in a crowded coastal village. Photo by Alessandro Pavone/ Save the Children

Also see Haiyan Devastates the Philippines, our special coverage page.

Six months ago, thousands died in Eastern Visayas in the Philippines after it was hit by super typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda). Today, thousands continue to suffer due to the lack of a comprehensive government master plan to rehabilitate the devastated region.

After learning about this report, Senator Chiz Escudero berated local officials for failing to understand the gravity of the situation:

This is very sad. Six months after Yolanda, more than a year after the previous disasters we don't even know what exactly the affected communities need? It is not about what we can give or what we will to give. This lackadaisical attitude is prolonging the anguish of victims. It is bordering on criminal already.

Exacerbating the problem is the lack of coordination among government agencies:

Haiyan caused a storm surge last November which destroyed thousands of villages. More than 16 million people were affected by the disaster.

Several organizations have observed that the typhoon victims are slowly recovering but many problems persist. The Red Cross lamented that basic services have not been restored in some areas:

Affected communities have shown remarkable strength and many are on the road to recovery. However, high levels of pre-existing poverty are holding people back and in some areas basic services have not been re-established.

Only half of health clinics in the typhoon-damaged provinces have resumed operations which undermined the health of mothers and newborns. This report from Save the Children:

At a medical center in Eastern Visayas, several babies died from conditions that are normally treatable, such as hypothermia and hypoglycemia, often because nurses were unable to examine newborns properly at night because there was no power for lights.

Four months after the typhoon, only half of affected communities had seen their health centers reopen. Challenges in delivering critical childbirth and newborn care services were specially great in Tacloban and Leyte.

Meanwhile, Oxfam warned that 200,000 survivors in coastal areas are at risk of worsening poverty because the government plans to relocate them to safe settlements without adequate consideration as to how they will later earn a living.

Professor Carl Ramota visited the Palo campus of the country’s premier state university and reported the deplorable conditions in the school:

Six months after typhoon Yolanda decimated its campus in Palo, Leyte, there is still no clear plan for the rehabilitation or relocation of the UP School of Health Sciences. While nearby structures are already being reconstructed, the Palo campus remains in ruins. Worse, the asbestos roofing in the old SHS building has not yet been removed, posing a threat to the maternity clinic beside it and other residents.

Photo from Facebook page of Carl Ramota

Photo from Facebook page of Carl Ramota

Youth leader Divs Mosquera also visited Tacloban, the ‘ground zero’ of the disaster, and was moved by the stories of the typhoon survivors.

Months after Yolanda, Leyte is still a tent city. I've cried buckets since I arrived, hearing the survivors’ stories just breaks my heart.

Government statistics placed the number of dead at about 6,300. But the figures could be higher because dead bodies are still being retrieved in the region. Al Octaviano, a resident of Leyte province, said that many dead bodies are not being reported to authorities:

I personally retrieved 14 bodies — two children, four women, the rest were men. I tied them together so they would not be washed away by the sea, but you know when bodies are immersed in sea water, they fall apart. There are also many bones buried in the mud of the shallows, but people don’t report these anymore.

For its part, the government acknowledged the criticisms of its relief work but warned against politicians who are exploiting the situation to advance their political agenda:

…we are likewise cynical of those whose agenda includes misleading our people to believe that government is not sensitive enough to alleviate the suffering of the survivors. We detest politicians and political groups who strive to put blinders in exploiting the vulnerability of victims of Yolanda.


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