Disasters and Development: Reflections from the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan

Eva Jocelyn Ship in Tacloban CityAt the end of last year, I had the opportunity to travel to the Philippines and to visit GlobalGiving’s local partners that have been driving the Super Typhoon Haiyan recovery effort. (The storm was known locally as Typhoon Yolanda.) One year after the disaster, some of the most powerful remnants from the destruction have become benign landmarks and regular photo ops for visitors, like this 3,000 ton ship that washed into a community in Tacloban City. This juxtaposition of the terrifying and the mundane is a fitting metaphor for the complex road to recovery.

This short video brings to you to some of the people and issues I came across in the Philippines one year after Haiyan.(I’m narrating the video.)

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving's visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

Click to watch a short video about GlobalGiving’s visit to the Philippines one year after Typhoon Haiyan

On my long flight home I reflected back on my many conversations in the Philippines; here are some observations that kept running through my mind:

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.57.51 PM1. There is a vital need for ongoing support after disasters fade from the headlines.  Since Haiyan struck the Philippines last year, donors on GlobalGiving have delivered nearly $2.4 million in support of 33 locally-driven nonprofits performing relief and recovery work. When images of the disaster were flooding the newsfeeds, it was relatively easy for us and our nonprofit partners to mobilize donor support. However, as Natalie from International Disaster Volunteers explains in the video, as the work turns from rescue and relief to long-term recovery, many communities are left without the resources they need to get back on their feet.

One the tools we have for addressing these longer-term needs in disaster-affected areas is the anniversary campaign. On the one-year anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan we held a matching campaign, offering $100,000 in matching funds for organizations still working in the Haiyan-affected areas. This recent campaign helped Filipino organizations raise an additional $103,773 from 405 donors for ongoing recovery work after Haiyan. The matching incentives motivate donors to give to support ongoing needs. These donations alone this won’t rebuild the Philippines, but they are an important part of reinforcing the links between local communities and the global community of donors.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.58.08 PM2. Disasters highlight underlying needs for development. When I asked Filipinos about the largest need one year after Haiyan, many people said “livelihoods.” But interestingly, they couldn’t agree on whether the livelihoods situation was better or worse than before the disaster (and the international aid response that followed). To me, this underscores the fact that underemployment is an ongoing issue in the Philippines, and it’s simply one that’s been exacerbated by the natural disasters—including Haiyan.

PBSP, represented by Jay in the video, is a large civil society organization that is funding cash-for-work programs for local villagers who want to re-plant their lost mangroves. This program not only addresses the livelihood issue, but also the deforestation and damage to local watersheds and ecosystems, problems that have existed for years and whose effects were only compounded by the disaster. Livelihood and ecosystem programs generally fall in the category of ongoing needs for ‘development,’ not just disaster relief, but they can spell the difference between a disaster setting back a community for decades or a community being able to cope and move on. That’s why our ‘disaster’ strategy starts and ends with supporting local development efforts.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 8.56.24 PM3. Disasters can be an opportunity to build local capacity. When disasters do happen, we work to get leaders like Elmer and his organization, WAND, the immediate funding they need to respond, and then we help them leverage those disasters as a way to build skills, expertise, and awareness of ongoing structural issues in their communities. I’ve emailed back and forth with Elmer nearly a dozen times since my visit, and I’ve seen how he’s developing the relationships with the many donors that WAND acquired while they were in disaster-response mode. On the one-year anniversary campaign, Elmer is testing new ways of engaging donors around deadlines and matching incentives, all while building his own networks and fundraising skills. In building his fundraising capacity he’s also building toward sustainability.

When I asked Filipinos if they feared another big storm, every one of them said yes. For many, it wasn’t a question of “if” another devastating typhoon would happen, but “when.” (In fact, in just the 2 months since I returned, the Philippines has already been hit by some very scary storms.) I’m glad to know that for Natalie, Jay, Elmer, and many other local leaders, GlobalGiving is a long-term partner in their growth, learning, and capacity, as they keep their eyes on development and resilience in the Philippines.

 

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