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Typhoon season threatens Philippines Haiyan survivors

Source: Thu, 8 May 2014 11:40 GMT
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A view of temporary shelters for typhoon survivors that were constructed next to a ship that ran aground is pictured nearly 100 days after super Typhoon Haiyan devastated Tacloban city in central Philippines February 14, 2014 REUTERS/Erik De Castro
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BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Six months after super storm Haiyan devastated central Philippines, another typhoon season is looming, threatening a further crisis for the millions of survivors still living in poor housing and struggling to recover their income, aid agencies say.

Aid workers also warned of a shortage of evacuation centres in some coastal areas that are vulnerable to storms in the disaster-prone Southeast Asian country.

More than 5,000 Filipino families still in live in evacuation centres and some 380,000 households need critical, urgent assistance with shelter, the United Nations said.

"(We are) concerned about the potential for a significant humanitarian crisis during the imminent cyclone season," it said in a statement released Monday.

About 20 typhoons hit the Southeast Asian country each year, often bringing death and destruction. The southwest monsoon lasts from June to September but typhoons often make landfall long after the rainy season has ended.

A recent study by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Eastern Samar, where Haiyan made its first landfall, found that the area was unprepared for future typhoons, with more than 90 percent of designated evacuation centres such as schools, churches and community centres destroyed or badly damaged.

"It's a situation where the substantial population has no recourse in the case of a typhoon. They would potentially have to ride it out outside," Brad Mellicker, IOM's head of office in Samar Province, told Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

"Haiyan itself raised vulnerabilities and exposures to new disasters quite enormously and considering the typhoon risks that exist in the region, it's a major concern," Mellicker said. "Additional infrastructure should be built as soon as possible, beginning now."

 

REBUILDING LIVES, HOMES AND INCOME

Haiyan, possibly the strongest storm ever to make landfall, killed nearly 8,000 people, damaged 1.1 million houses and affected up to 14 million people when it hit on Nov 8. Damage and losses were estimated at around $12.9 billion.

It also damaged the livelihoods of six million workers, of which some 2.6 million were already living at or near the poverty line before the storm hit.

"Shelter and livelihoods are the two biggest needs that we have to attend to," said Gwendolyn Pang, secretary-general of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which is embarking on a three-year, $365 million recovery plan.

"Our first concern is of course the upcoming typhoon season. We're wondering whether storms will hit the same area, how will the people cope, and how will we be able to scale up our work," she added.

Both the Red Cross and IOM say there is an urgent need to expand shelter and livelihoods assistance programmes further before monsoon but admit the sheer scale of the disaster is a challenge.

"Many aid agencies and the government have scaled up quite substantially over the past months ... but relative to the scale of the emergency, it still remains a drop in the bucket," IOM's Mellicker said.

Funding shortfalls pose another problem.

"The shelter cluster is only 33 percent funded despite being second biggest component, after agriculture, of the U.N.'s strategic plan. And the IFRC appeal for 126 million Swiss francs ($144 million) is 64 percent funded," said Kate Marshall, spokesperson for the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in the Philippines.

IFRC coordinates international aid agencies' work on shelter under the United Nations' "cluster" system.

"If more funding isn't forthcoming it's likely the recovery plan will be lessened in scope, having a detrimental impact on thousands of disadvantaged families," she said.

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