Six Months On: Salvation Army in Typhoon-Hit Philippines Helps Prepare For Future

published on 9 May 2014

The Salvation Army has been working in the Philippines to help people prepare for the future after the deadliest typhoon in the country’s history hit six months ago. The Army has started a project enabling farmers who lost their crops to plant fast-growing vegetables and is investigating the possibility of establishing coconut seedling nurseries as the Philippines is the world’s largest producer of coconuts.

More than 6,000 people died and five million people saw their homes severely damaged or destroyed when Typhoon Haiyan struck on the evening of November 7 (4.40am November 8 local time).

The city of Tacloban, home to more than 220,000 people, suffered more loss of life than any other area of the Philippines.

Local Salvation Army churches in the Philippines as well as the international Salvation Army provided emergency relief and support. Now The Salvation Army is focusing on helping people move on with their lives and plan for the future.

The Army is working in partnership with a range of other agencies to ensure that they do not duplicate the support provided.

Damaris Frick, from The Salvation Army’s International Emergency Response team, who was one of the first of The Salvation Army’s International staff to arrive in the country after the Typhoon, said: “More than two million people are still living in inadequate or insufficient shelters – either living in temporary homes or perhaps with relatives. There is a sense of urgency as the rainy and typhoon season begins again in June

“From the moment the disaster struck, and now as we help people move towards recovery, we have worked with a range of agencies in partnership. This is to ensure we are not duplicating the work – so we would look to go where there is no provision – so that we weren’t following Oxfam down the road and helping people there when the neighbouring town gets nothing.

“We listened to people’s needs as well as taking advice to make sure that the programmes we provide will work in the long term and are well thought through.

“We considered replacing fishing boats – as many were damaged and fishing was many people’s livelihoods.

“But, after speaking to government agencies we discovered that they felt this wasn’t the best way of serving as it could lead to overfishing if the previous boats were repaired as well as the current ones. And so we looked at different ways we could help that would provide long-term sustainability.”

The Salvation Army has helped by providing quick-growing vegetable seeds, gardening implements, and a small cash grant (equivalent to a day’s wages) for approximately 5,000 farming families who lost all their crops in the typhoon.

The Salvation Army is also working on a project to help people to repair or replace the roofs of their homes, which were damaged in the typhoon. This help is in the form of materials, a cash grant and training, for more than 3,000 families.

The Army is also investigating the possibility of establishing coconut seedling nurseries in the town of Dulag to help coconut farmers replace destroyed trees and to give them a source of income while their new trees mature and begin to bear fruit.

The Philippines is the world’s largest producer of coconuts and the industry plays a very important role in the islands’ economy. Approximately 42 million coconut trees were either damaged or destroyed in the typhoon and this has had a big impact on people living in area where it struck with about 1 million coconut farmers affected.

Major Ray Brown, International Emergency Services Coordinator, said: “After the initial relief effort the idea is you don’t want to go on for too long as you could create dependency.

“So we have looked to provide long-term practical support that will help people in the future.

“We ensured that local people were invited to accompany International Emergency personnel to meetings with the UN and other charities so they could see how those meetings worked and be better able to represent themselves for the future.

“We always listen to what the people themselves want as well. Even in the early weeks you need to be thinking about long-term recovery and what activities would really help people.”

In the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, The Salvation Army provided emergency food packs for approximately 15,000 families. The organisation also provided snacks for people stranded at airports either waiting to be evacuated such as at Tacloban where snacks were given to more than 13,500 people, or waiting for word from family and friends such as at Manila airport where the Army gave out snacks to more than 1,800 people.

The Salvation Army also worked to help ensure that people going through Tacloban airport were not being trafficked as this was a danger when people and children are so vulnerable in the wake of a disaster. With no restrictions at the airport due to the emergency, the church and charity helped check that people leaving on flights out of Tacloban, were registered.

More than 1,800 people received treatment from a Salvation Army mobile medical team, as well as vaccines for more than 2,400 children, and various dental services.

Salvation Army officers based in The Philippines and medical team members counselled thousands of people who were experiencing difficulty coping with the grief and trauma that follows such a devastating disaster and the loss of family, friends, and neighbours. That counselling process is ongoing.