In November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, a category 5 super typhoon and the most powerful to make landfall in history, battered the central Philippines. The typhoon tore through the Central Visayas region, bringing 300kph winds and torrential rain, triggering floods and mudslides and causing tsunami-like storm surges that destroyed coastal villages and towns.
Thousands of people were killed and 1.1 million people were made homeless, while 16 million people were affected – one sixth of the country’s population. The scale of the destruction was without precedent. As well as homes, Haiyan wiped out crop staples, fisheries, schools and health facilities. Several thousand rural health centres and schools were rendered unusable.
The Red Cross and Red Crescent came together to support the Philippine Red Cross. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) responded immediately with emergency relief, including shelter, food and non-food items, water and specialist personnel, reaching 1.3 million people. The operation, now a year and a half into the recovery phase, was supported by 137 national societies, of which 17 are in country. It is one of the largest responses ever mounted by the IFRC and is on track to finish by mid -2016. Some key sectors, such as livelihoods, will be completed by the end of the year. This is despite many intervening and varied natural disasters such as typhoons, floods and potential volcanic eruptions. The Red Cross has now exceeded the 60,000 mark on homes built or repaired; of this, the Federation has so far completed half of its 8,700 shelter target. Each new IFRC home has an inside latrine and washing facilities.
Livelihood cash distributions in relief and recovery have set a record for the Red Cross and Red Crescent, with more than 146,000 households, equivalent to about 700,000 people, receiving between USD110 and USD220, mainly for livestock and seeds. 1,000 people supported by the Philippine Red Cross and the IFRC are receiving vocational training, while funding is being provided for 100 community-driven livelihood projects.
Progress in health has been slower but is nevertheless about halfway to the target of 62 rebuilt or repaired health facilities, with IFRC’s share at 20. The Federation has also funded two new blood donation centres. Each upgraded facility will also receive new medical equipment. School children are also benefitting from hundreds of new classrooms and improved latrines and wash facilities. Hygiene promotion has been conducted in over 33,000 households.
Disaster risk reduction is also picking up pace, with nearly 12,000 individuals trained as community volunteers to be the ‘eyes and ears’ of Philippine Red Cross during emergency drills and evacuations.