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Eyewitness: picking up the pieces

2 December 2013 | by Daphne Villanueva, Christian Aid's Philippines Country Manager

Three weeks after Typhoon Haiyan - the super typhoon that devastated the central Philippine islands - we reflect on the situation faced by millions of Filipinos and the importance of helping people get back on their feet in the long term.

People are trying to get on with their lives. They are literally picking up the pieces – what is left of walls, posts and roofing of their previous homes and other building materials scattered everywhere by wind and water. 

People are trying to get on with their lives. They are literally picking up the pieces.

These materials form their new makeshift dwellings that they try to construct nearest the main road for easier reach of relief distribution. These flimsy structures stand in between mounds of debris that have yet to be cleared.

A few more signs of normality include the hanging of freshly washed clothes (relief packs distributed by Christian Aid partners include laundry detergent) and small patches of palay - unhusked rice - miraculously saved from the rain and now spread out to dry on the roadsides.

Freshly washed clothes - a sign of normality in Eastern Samar in the Philippines.  
Freshly washed clothes - a sign of normality in Eastern Samar.

Unfortunately, there are also big chunks of germinated palay that will no longer provide the rice to eat or sell for much needed cash.

Emergency relief

A woman recieves an emergency aid package, including food, toothpaste, soap and detergent

A woman in Iloilo receives an emergency aid package, including food, toothpaste, soap and detergent.

At night, faint light can be seen from the small wood stoves where people cook whatever limited relief goods they have collected - some rice, sardines, noodles. It will take months before power in these areas is restored. 

In many affected places, such as in Leyte province where the mighty winds and storm surges had all but flattened houses and buildings, many have left their towns.

There is a constant exodus of people wanting to go to the nearest city to find better accommodation and jobs. This could soon create problems for host cities.

Long-term support

Helping people recover and get back on their feet is something we will be moving towards in the coming months. Christian Aid has a lot of experience in this area, through programmes such as the Ketsana Rehabilitation Programme - our long term response to the typhoon in 2009 that affected more than 4 million people.

The road ahead is long and we will stand by and support the poor and struggling communities in the years ahead, long after this disaster has faded from the news.

Yet, such is the scale of this disaster that our partners are still very much meeting immediate needs for food and water, blankets and shelter.

There is much to be done.

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