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Recovery in Philippines ‘will take years’

06 December 2013

The clean-up in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan has a long way to go, writes Sudarshan Sathianathan

Marcus PERKINS/ Tearfund

Roofless: Avalyn Orao attempts to cope in what remains of her kitchen in the coastal town of Marabut

Roofless: Avalyn Orao attempts to cope in what remains of her kitchen in the coastal town of Marabut

AS SOON as we touched down in the southern islands of the Philippines, the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan was shockingly clear. Debris from buildings and trees littered the streets. Homes lay flat, as families picked through what remained of their lives.

One in ten Filipinos was made homeless by the typhoon. More than 13 million people were affected across the country. Every eating-place and petrol station we saw was closed; the pawn shops were crowded; and many towns had no electricity. Yet there were no signs of chaos or panic.

Throngs of people loaded up vans with desperately needed goods in an effort to help one another. Generosity towards those in need is an integral part of the Filipino culture.

For many, the problems are far greater than local resources can cope with. Marilynn Accedemia, was a teacher. She told us that she had lost five relatives and friends. They had been sheltering in a room when a wave smashed through the windows, and the room began to fill to the ceiling with mud.

Marilynn and two others survived by escaping through a hole in the ceiling: "I pulled myself up by an electric cable to get through the hole," she said, pointing to the hole.

Across the country, we metTearfund partners who were providing food, blankets, mosquitonets, and other vital goods. Theyare helping people to get cleanwater, access to lavatories, and aresetting up a mobile health-centre.

Outwardly, things are returning to normal. But for millions, recovery will take years.

Sudarshan Sathianathan is head of the Asia region for Tearfund.

Aid sent. People from churches, mosques, and the local community gathered at St Barnabas's, in Walthamstow, in east London on Sunday, to donate items for sending to the Philippines. The next day, a 40-foot shipping container was despatched with food, clothing, toys, and other items to assist in the recovery.

The Filipino Priest-in-Charge of St Saviour's, Walthamstow, the Revd Salvador Telen, members of whose family have been affected by the typhoon, said: "I was touched to see so many donations, including of money." The Salvation Army is expanding its efforts among typhoon survivors. So far, almost 1000 family packs containing food, water, and other essentials have been distributed.



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