Typhoon Haiyan, 1 year later: Building back better, stronger, together.
On November 8th, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan – thought to be the strongest storm to ever make landfall – hit the Philippines, devastating two thirds of the country and killing more than 6,200 people. The Category 5 storm affected over 14 million people and destroyed or damaged, more than 1.14 million houses and 600 schools. In the aftermath, access to vital resources such as power, water, and health services became extremely limited.
“When we heard the warning my mother said: ‘Brace yourself, there is a typhoon coming. Please my son: be brave,” recalled Jednel, 11, just 3 weeks after Typhoon Haiyan devastated his coastal community in the Philippines.
Jednel’s elementary school was destroyed when water swept 1 kilometer inland during a storm surge, following the typhoon. “I miss school; it was like a family,” he said.
Having worked in the affected communities for over 50 years, Plan anticipated emergency needs, and positioned resources as the typhoon approached. Staff were on the ground immediately following the storm – providing emergency relief. Since then, we have worked hand-in-hand with children and families to restore their communities.
One year later, we have aided 1.3 million individuals, 300,000 households, and 1,300 affected villages. Though as Roger Yates, Humanitarian Director of Plan International reminds us, these numbers “are not statistics; they are people, families, children and lives to be saved – if appropriate measures such as stronger roofing, protection against landslides, or safer schools, are put in place.”
“We’re not that scared of things anymore,” said one boy named Pablo. “We feel more confident now. Bit by bit, we’re learning about our rights and we’d like to thank you for that.”
Haiyan will not be the last typhoon to hit the Philippines. An average of 20 typhoons hit the country each year. This is why Plan is focused on creating sustainable improvements and lasting solutions in the communities where we work, including using resilient building materials to ensure structures can withstand future storms, and helping to train community members in emergency preparedness and response.
“Natural disasters are the new normal, and we all need to adapt to this reality,” said Carin Van de Hor, Plan International’s Philippine Country Director. “But in rebuilding after the devastation of Haiyan, we have had the opportunity to build back better, and it isn’t just the buildings that are stronger as result, it is the communities and the people’s spirit, too.”
As we approached the anniversary of the typhoon, we checked in with Jednel. Playing on a now clean, debris-free beach, Jednel expressed his joy at being able to feel safe, and experience life as a child, once more.
“After the typhoon we were not allowed to play outside because of all the dangerous waste, but now we can play on the beach again,” celebrated Jednel (white t-shirt at left).
“This is my favourite place,” he said. “There is a sense of freedom here, where my family can live and be happy and proud”. Jednel now looks ahead to a promising future.
“When I grow up, I want to be a scientist. I want to learn about typhoons and what is happening to the Earth. I want to go to school so I can fulfill my plans and support my family. And I want to have a big, happy family… that’s all,” he said.
Though Plan has made valuable gains in Typhoon Haiyan relief and recovery efforts, there is still much to be done. Millions of families and children like Jednel still need access to vital resources and services. Together, we can begin a cycle of progress, building a better tomorrow for the people of the Philippines.