The super typhoon Haiyan that swept through the Philippines, locally known as Yolanda, is one of the most powerful storms that the world has ever seen. It is feared it has destroyed more than 70 percent of everything in its path, including 40,000 homes damaged and over 20,000 completely destroyed.
It will take weeks and months to estimate the final number of victims and the real damage caused to the country. However, at this moment in time, we know that thousands of people are without access to food, water or medicine.
First aid kits, medicine and food are starting to arrive and will be distributed to the affected provinces. However, it is equally important to think about shelter. Recovery after humanitarian disasters is a multi-dimensional process and consists of various components. One of the approaches that we, as an organization believe in, is cooperation and support on the ground very early on.
This has been our approach in the recovery after the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and after the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.
We believe that one of the first essential steps is to provide people with emergency shelter and clean up kits.
These kits have important tools which can be used to start fixing damaged homes – buckets, shovels, torches, hammers and so on. They also contain blankets and other plastic materials that can be used to temporarily protect damaged homes from the hard elements.
However, the devastation in the Philippines has meant that some houses, that were made up of light materials, were washed completely away and thousands of people are now left without a roof above their heads.
These victims need tents and temporary protection. In those situations, our approach has been to provide designs of temporary shelter that can step-by-step be transferred into permanent houses. These solutions, if implemented from the very beginning can considerably help in the recovery.
The typhoon also shattered other buildings, like offices and schools, which has seriously damaged sanitation facilities.
Thus, the cleaning and de-clogging of blocked drainages are desperately needed to restore access to sanitation and prevent the spread of diseases. Clean up kits too can be instrumental in this work as well.
By Mihai Grigorean
Disaster Response Coordinator
Habitat for Humanity, Europe, Middle East and Africa
This opinion article first appeared in the Information Daily.