Rebuilding lives and livelihoods two years on from Typhoon Haiyan

Publicado: 3 noviembre 2015 11:57 CET

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

When Typhoon Haiyan tore through central Philippines two years ago, the livelihoods of thousands of people were severely affected. Farmers lost their crops and livestock, small businesses were destroyed and in some cases local markets collapsed.

Prior to the typhoon making landfall, poverty levels in parts of the Visayas were high, with most people relying on agriculture or small-scale commerce as their primary income source.

Restoring the livelihoods of vulnerable people has been one of the biggest success stories in the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan recovery operation. In the past two years cash distributions have helped over 150,000 households to get back on their feet.

Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon says: ‘We are happy to see people rise above the storm, and pleased for those whose lives we have improved by creating different kinds of opportunities for them.’ 

Under the Haiyan recovery operation, households receive up to $220 to support their chosen income-generation activity. While the majority choose to restock lost assets such as livestock or seeds to grow crops, a small but growing number are converting hobbies or existing skills into small businesses.

Livelihood support to Haiyan survivors goes beyond cash grants. Community-managed livelihood grants are also being provided. They give people from the same village the ability to enhance existing skills or diversify into a new enterprise that benefits all the residents. Community grants have been used to fund a variety of projects including a rice mill, a mangrove replanting project, construction of an artificial reef for fish breeding, a water refilling station and a pineapple plantation.

The Lumaynay Pineapple Plantation Association in Aklan is a group of mainly landless labourers from an upland area who decided to pool their resources to improve their income. The association received the equivalent of about $4,000 from the Red Cross to grow a special variety of pineapple whose fibre is used to make high quality fabric. The grant covers training, equipment and seedlings. The profit will be split between association members, with about a third being ploughed back into the business.

President Michelle Narte was the driving force behind the project.

‘Yolanda (Haiyan) destroyed all our crops so we had to think of ways of having a sustainable income,’ she says. ‘It makes sense for us to join together and grow a crop that will be made into something special that is part of our heritage.’            

Philippine Red Cross, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is offering skills training at partner vocational institutes to young people whose mainly low-income, rural families cannot afford to put them through college. This program has been expanded to fund more than 1,100 places. To date nearly half have completed their training and are looking for employment, mostly in growth sectors such as hospitality, catering, welding and engineering.

Sim Billiones, from Capiz, was offered a job at a top hotel in the provincial capital, Roxas, before he had even graduated.

‘I didn’t want to work on the farm,’ he says. ‘At the hotel I’m applying the basics I learned in the course and now I’m helping out when there are banquets and weddings. It’s hard work but I am helping to support my family.’

Sim’s proud mother Nelly says what he contributes from his small salary is helping pay the bills and put his twin brother Sam through school. Meanwhile, dad Romeo and mum Nelly are also able to buy and fatten up pigs and breed ducklings.