By Gustavo Gonzalez
UN Resident Coordinator and
Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines
“Tens of thousands are still without adequate shelter.”
Today we commemorate 100 days on after the Typhoon Rai locally known as Odette, swept through 11 of the country’s 17 regions on 16 and 17th December 2021. In partnership with the government, non-governmental organizations and the UN agencies, I recently undertook a midterm review to take stock of the response and the remaining gaps and I wish to commend partners and the Filipinos on the pace of the progress and their resilience in the face of this devastating typhoon.
During the stocktaking process, we were able to witness a coordinated and timely cross-cutting response to the immediate humanitarian needs in the areas of intervention (Caraga and Southern Leyte), particularly in the provision of food to the most vulnerable people, provision of safe water and sanitation facilities and hygiene services, access to health care services, including to sexual reproductive health (SRH), and provision of emergency shelter materials, such as tents and tarpaulin to the hundreds of thousands affected by Typhoon Rai/Odette.
Despite the efforts and progress made, tens of thousands are still without adequate shelter 100 days after the disaster. The need for durable shelter for millions of people whose homes were damaged or destroyed is critical. Currently over 31,000 people are still displaced with some still living in evacuation centers and others with relatives. Support to livelihood recovery, especially for those dependent on agricultural land and fishing also remains a key priority. Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) was also identified as a priority sector.
As response turns to early recovery, good practices in responding to the impacts of Typhoon Rai have been adopted. These include a) partners coming up with innovative ways in helping communities – an example is the women’s health on wheels (WHoW), a mobile maternity health facility designed to support pregnant women’s health and sexual reproductive health and gender-based violence. b) Partnerships across the spectrum have been strengthened, particularly through greater localization of humanitarian action with the UN agencies working hand-in-hand with local NGOs and c) Community engagement mechanisms have been quickly rolled out, ensuring accountability to affected people with feedback from communities collected and addressed.
The midterm review also identified concerns related to the durable resettlement of some families within the context of the “No Build Zone” policy as well as on reconstruction investments in heavily hit areas. With the backing of the Humanitarian Country Team, these issues will be part of my discussions with key government representatives and development partners to jointly explore durable solutions that preserve the dignity of most vulnerable people affected by the typhoon.
With the effects of climate change being experienced world over, cyclones and other storms are becoming more frequent and severe, floods are stronger, droughts are intensifying, and wildfires are becoming more devastating. The Philippines is among the countries first in line of being disproportionately impacted by these changes. Human-induced climate change is accelerating and already causing dangerous and widespread disruption to nature and people with those most vulnerable often being the most affected. For us to surmount these disasters, it is paramount that we continue working together to ensure effective and immediate response to disasters.
Our response in the first 100 days was made possible by the generous support of the international community who have so far contributed $56.6 million and funded our Humanitarian Needs and Priority plan up to 34 per cent. I would wish to use this opportunity to further call on them to redouble their support to fill the critical short falls in funding.
On 16 December, Typhoon Odette brought with it torrential rains, violent winds, floods and storm surges affecting close to 12 million people. More than 2 million houses were damaged or destroyed, with over 424,000 destroyed and over 1,694,000 partially damaged. Rebuilding efforts are ongoing.