Across the Philippines, Christmas celebrations are uncharacteristically subdued this year as people reflect on the devastation wrought by typhoon Haiyan and of the long task ahead to rebuild their lives. More than 6,000 people died and more than 1,700 people are still missing after the Nov 8 storm, known locally as Yolanda.
But even in those areas worst affected by the typhoon, people like 25 year-old Rowan are determined to do what they can to mark the occasion. “We found some Christmas decorations in the debris so we washed them and put them up,” he said, pointing to a makeshift Santa Claus complete with bearded mask. “We wanted to celebrate Christmas in some way”.
Haiyan hit some of the poorest regions of the Philippines. As ever, the poorest people, least able to withstand the shock of such a terrible event, are also finding it more difficult to recover. The Philippines government says it will cost $8.17 billion over four years to rebuild from Haiyan.
Oxfam is providing emergency relief and support and has reached more than 354,000 people so far, thanks to the generosity of donors. Working with local partner organizations, Oxfam has given people safe water, toilets, bathing areas and hygiene kits. We’re also helping them to restore their sources of income and livelihoods.
Oxfam has helped people to clear debris from rice fields. We have given out portable saw mills to help people turn fallen trees into lumber to rebuild their homes. We are aiming to help repair or replace fishing boats and nets, buying local materials wherever possible. We are also helping community groups assess the best way to rehabilitate the vital coconut industry, which was ravaged by the storm. “The challenge now is to manage the transition from the end of the emergency relief phase to early recovery” said Peter Struijf, who is in charge of Oxfam’s humanitarian response in Tacloban. “The key is to reduce vulnerabilities especially for those whose longer term livelihoods is very much at risk.”
Oxfam is determined to help people to “build back better”. We aim to leave communities stronger and better able to cope with the next big storm – or whatever else is thrown at them. To do this, Oxfam will continue to work with local community groups, to tackle the issues of inequality and poverty as part of its rehabilitation and long-term development work.
For more information and interview requests please contact:
Jonaid Jilani on 01865 472 193 or 07810 181 514 or Jjilani@oxfam.org.uk