Communities struggle to rebuild their lives after Typhoon Haima

Published: 26 October 2016 12:59 CET

By MJ Evalarosa, IFRC

Communities living in Northern Philippines are slowly picking up their lives one week after Super Typhoon Haima swept through the provinces in Luzon, causing widespread damage, flooding and landslides which blocked access to municipalities like Rizal and Kabugao.

As the rain begins to ease and the strong winds fade, residents living in the typhoon-hit areas are using the lull in the weather to salvage what they can to rebuild their damaged homes.

Nestor Binuloc, 55, had to walk for an hour to the nearest hardware store to purchase roofing sheets to repair the ones damaged in the typhoon.

“I need to take advantage of this good weather so that I can repair my roof properly,” he says. A carpenter and farmer by profession, Binuloc aims to finish repairing his roof before going to the fields to check on his crops.

“I am sure that my crops are completely damaged by the storm, but I’ll try to salvage what I can,” he says.

As of 24 October, damage to agriculture in the affected areas are estimated to be 1 billion Philippine Pesos (around 20 million US dollars). Corn and rice fields have taken the full brunt of the typhoon’s impact. In the province of Isabela, initial reports reveal that 100 per cent of the crops have been damaged due to the floods.

Watson Agsayang, a 42-year-old farmer, explains that a normal harvest usually yields 50 sacks of rice grains, which he can sell in the market at 20 Philippine Pesos (0.40 US cents) per kilogram. With a family of five to feed, the farmer normally sets aside 30 sacks of rice to sustain them until the next harvest, and sell the other 20 sacks. Now, after visiting his rice fields, Watson says his harvest has been severely affected. 

“A lot of the rice is too wet and damaged to be used. I think I can only harvest 30 sacks,” says Watson. “I’ll try my luck again in the next planting season. My family and I will have to consume what we can salvage.”

The livelihood of many farmers like Watson have been crippled by their ruined crops. In some provinces with high-value crops, like in the town of Cabateyan in the Apayao province, residents struggle to pick up after the storm, which also damaged their irrigation systems.

Lilia Pico, a 55-year-old government volunteer, makes a living selling seasonal fruits like lanzones, rambutan, and high value crops like coffee beans in the market. Most of the fruit and coffee bean trees she had planted seven years ago were only starting to yield their harvests when Haima’s winds toppled them.

“As a government volunteer, I don’t get paid as much as I’d like to, so I get my extra income from my fruit trees,” says Lilia. “Now they’re all gone.” As Lilia looks sadly at her fallen fruit trees, she says she has no choice but to plant again. In the meantime, she will have to find another way to earn extra income.

Haima is the third typhoon to hit Northern Philippines in just a span of three weeks after typhoon Meranti (Ferdie) and typhoon Sarika (Karen). Earlier in the week, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched an emergency appeal for 3 million Swiss francs (3 million US dollars) to support the Philippine Red Cross in delivering assistance to 20,000 people affected by Typhoon Haima over a period of ten months. 

Philippine Red Cross volunteers have been mobilized to the affected areas to provide hot meals and distribute relief items like tarpaulins, plastic mats, mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans and hygiene kits. The Red Cross is also helping to clear the debris left behind in the storm, and providing psychosocial support for communities struggling with the recovery.