Protecting family and livelihoods even after the loss of a home

Published: 25 November 2013 22:41 CET

By Valerie Batselaere, Benelux ERU delegate

Josephine, a small woman with big round eyes, shelters six people under her roof. Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, managed what no other typhoon had, and smashed her house to pieces. It had withstood dozens of typhoons, year after year, so there really was no reason to believe that this one, even if it came with a warning from the government, would be any worse.

Josephine, 56, and her husband Jose, 57, have used the remains of their house to make a shelter where they could protect themselves and their rice crop – a mere 30 sacks of which half will go to the land’s owner as the yearly rent. The rice sacks, their only remaining asset, had become wet during the typhoon but have dried since.

Their daughter and her two children, and their 15-year old son Andrew also live in the makeshift house where one corner works as an improvised kitchen and another corner is a bamboo platform serving as a bed for all of them.  

Despite the cramped conditions, Josephine and her family welcome our emergency response unit (ERU) into the house when the rain gets too heavy. Andrew, who has learning difficulties, is panicking. He doesn’t talk and lies shaking in the security of his mother’s arms. “It’s the rain,” she says. “It reminds him of the typhoon and the house being blown away.”

The Benelux ERU is distributing essential household items to the most vulnerable people in this community on Panay Island, which is remote and difficult to get to. Hundreds of thousands of people in the north of the island were seriously affected by the typhoon. The relief kits include soap, washing powder, towels, toothbrushes and sanitary products. There is also jerry cans and materials that can be used to help build shelter.