On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan struck the Visayas, one of the Philippines’ three main island groups.
The storm affected more than 14 million people, of whom 6,000 died and another four million became homeless.
Oxfam has been providing relief and services to the affected areas. A two-year assistance program has been completed, having served more than 180,000 families across Leyte, Eastern Samar and northern Cebu.
At the beginning of the year, I joined some colleagues from Oxfam International to follow up on the progress in the country.
Tacloban is made of 138 barangays and each has special needs.
Oxfam first addressed the local residents’ needs with emergency relief supplies. Now the focus is on reconstruction work.
Resilience to disasters is the long-term goal.
The Tacloban Fisherfolk Urban Association from Cancabato Bay, a local organization which is supported by Oxfam, has initiated a conservation program among 42 smaller fishermen groups in the area.
The program not only safeguards the livelihood of local fishermen but also enhances the bay’s resilience to disasters.
“Our family has fished this bay for three generations. This is our home,” Losanto, a local fisherman, said. “Although Haiyan destroyed it, we will rebuild and protect it.”
In Oxfam’s cash-for-work projects, typhoon victims who are local residents and fishermen with excellent knowledge in the area were employed to help clear up the bay using fishing boats and simple tools.
The Philippine government has promised a subsidy of 3.8 million pesos (HK$600,000) for the purchase of excavators and for planting mangrove forests in order to restore the habitat.
Meanwhile, some fishermen can be seen cultivating young fish off the coast in fish farms.
Emilio, the association’s vice chairman, said the group has reached a consensus in terms of fishing strategies and appropriate fishing methods so that Cancabato Bay could become a conservation zone with a sustainable aquaculture industry.
Women also played an important role in rebuilding the community.
More than 180 have mastered the art of carpentry and homebuilding through Oxfam’s education program. More than 170 houses resulted from their work.
Carmelita, a 41-year-old mother, said she is deeply satisfied knowing her efforts could help rebuild her town while she earns money as well.
She and nine women were on a team led by an experienced carpenter.
They had received 15 days of professional training and went to different places to help in the reconstruction.
They are also expected to receive government certificates, proof that women are capable of thriving in a male-dominated industry.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 24
Translation by Darlie Yiu
[Chinese version 中文版]
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