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Report on Typhoon Haiyan

26/06/2014: Philippines

Unfortunately Government preparation and response to Typhoon Haiyan was and continues to be both inadequate and slow. Many are still living in tent cities despite the billions flowing in from different governments and organizations such as the United Nations and Red Cross.Recently a mother and her 6 children were burnt to death when their tent caught fire. The Director of Social Welfare stated recently that slowness in providing housing was due to the lack of housing materials – yet there are thousands of fallen trees.  Also much of the aid sent in kind from overseas was delayed at customs and until now some has been in port for 4 months. Rather than facilitating the quick release, members of the customs bureau, noted for corruption, are demanding payment. There are reports of food for relief rotting in government warehouses. Tired of waiting 17000 people in Tacloban and Samar signed a petition asking the government to just give them P40,000 ($1000) each and they would repair their own houses.  Of course this was turned down.

Certain Embassies admitted in private that they know there has been corruption in the use of their funds but are unable to go through non government agencies.  Recently a conference was held where different government and official agencies including the United Nations, attended to sign a memo ensuring their donations would go to housing and classrooms. Part of the problem is the Philippine Government has turned over the rehabilitation of the affected areas to private individuals with the government acting only as “facilitator”.  Also there is bias in terms of local government units with some being favored over others because of their political affiliations. The Government is waiting for “development plans” from each of the affected areas .In the meantime people are prevented from helping themselves.  For example, the fisher folk are not allowed to rebuild by the sea.  Yet a law originally banning any “building” within 40 meters of the shore line has now been changed to banning “permanent dwellings”.  It s believed the change is to allow beach resorts but not houses for the fisher folk to be near the source of their livelihood!

Within this context it has been religious groups and other non government organizations with donations from private groups and individuals that have proved most reliable in delivering aid directly to the affected people.We were able to help a little in this effort because of the generosity of all those who sent donations to us.  Below is an outline of where the money went.  Apart from a few individuals whom we know, most went to organizations with which we have some links.  All these organizations belong to a national coordinating group, BALSA (Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan – Working together for the people).  This ensured that relief was reaching the poorest of the poor often living in areas difficult to access and therefore not receiving aid.  Also it ensured that the services of these groups are not overlapping.

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