By Kate Bundra Roux
When Typhoon Bopha hit the island of southern Philippines on 4 December 2012, it tore apart communities and affected over 6 million people. And while the disaster has fallen off of news headlines and most of the world has moved on, thousands of families affected by the typhoon have not.
Mary Chris Limbwasan is one of those individuals who is still struggling to put her life back together. Mary and her 18-month-old daughter Nicole, live amongst a dozen other families in an evacuation centre managed by the Philippine Red Cross.
“I wrapped my daughter in a blanket. It was all I could do to keep her safe,” she says. “We were almost swept away by the floods, but someone pulled us to safety.”
Typhoon Bopha, the deadliest storm to have struck the Philippines in the past year, killed over 1,000 people. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched a 16.2 million Swiss franc emergency appeal to help the Philippine Red Cross provide humanitarian assistance to 200,000 people.
Shelter for people like Mary and her daughter Nicole, remains one of the most critical needs. According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, over 120,000 homes were left severely damaged by the typhoon, and nearly 90,000 were completely destroyed. There are approximately 13,000 persons still residing in evacuation centres waiting for assistance.
A five-minute walk from where Mary Chris resides, the Philippine Red Cross has provided emergency shelter to dozens of families. They moved from the evacuation centre on the first day of the new year. Yet support for longer-term solutions is still critical.
A few colourful sheets are strung limply together with a rope, creating a sense of privacy among the families that are living together in the open-air sports stadium.
Ami Jane, one of the Red Cross nurses working in the centre, says many people were still dealing with psychological trauma. “Having a home for these mothers, children and families, is really needed – not only for them to feel safe again, but so they can begin to rebuild their lives,” she says.
Under the emergency appeal, the IFRC plans to support Philippine Red Cross plans to build typhoon-resilient shelters for 4,000 families. In addition, 15,000 families with damaged homes will be assisted with shelter repair materials.
However, Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, says donations to support more permanent shelter solutions have been slow. “These shelter solutions are crucial because the frequency and scale of hydrological and meteorological disasters are projected to increase due to climate change,” he says.
During the holiday season alone, when two storms triggered heavy rains in Mindanao, the typhoon-affected families had to endure the harsh weather inside the tents.
“The Philippine Red Cross is putting equal focus on disaster risk reduction measures, which are necessary to prevent loss of lives and livelihoods in future typhoons,” Richard Gordon says.