Disaster preparedness still key 18 months after ‘Yolanda’

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MANILA, May 10, 2015 — With over a year and a half after super typhoon Haiyan hit Central Philippines, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) country director Joseph Curry said disaster preparedness and early warning need to be the government’s and other agencies’ top priorities.

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) country director Joseph Curry (Photo: Melo M. Acuña)

In an interview, Curry said this will be their thrust for the next three years in typhoon-affected areas in Eastern Samar and Leyte provinces. He said they have a strong presence in five of the most affected towns in the Diocese of Borongan and four other towns in Tacloban City, Leyte.

He said here was a marked improvement in December last year as “Ruby” ravaged parts of Eastern Visayas. The people received the required early warning and communities prepared evacuation sites and relief goods.

“There’s considerable improvement in (Samar and Leyte) where residents have moved to more durable homes,” Curry said.

He acknowledged the need to build more homes and provide alternative sources of livelihood for farmers whose coconuts have been severely affected.

Over the past 18 months, CRS said they have built and repaired some 6,000 homes with farmers needing additional sources of income to diversify crops with the possible introduction of cacao and coffee.

Curry said their total funding for Haiyan amounted to US$ 76 million and has already spend US$ 21 million in 2014.

“We have appropriated some US$ 32 million this year for shelter construction, water and sanitation and livelihood programs” he added. The response to their appeals have been warm in 2014, but has significantly slowed down this year due to other calamities in other countries.

To prevent duplication, the CRS has close coordination mechanisms with local government units. Curry said their priorities include the poorest typhoon victims along coastal areas and in isolated villages.

“We hope to build more homes in time for Haiyan’s second anniversary this year,” Curry said. While some consider their homes transitional, they are much better and stronger than homes the victims had prior to the typhoon’s onslaught, he added.

Asked to describe the homes, Curry said though it is made of light materials, the homes they’ve built now have steel bars, coconut lumber and plywood for walls and G. I. sheets for roofing. He added they have not built homes in previously identified “no-dwelling zones.”

He looks forward to significantly reducing the time to provide immediate relief to calamity victims and improve mechanisms to hasten recovery of affected areas.

Curry said while there are issues about possible relocation or resettlement, it is important that homes built be near schools and sources of livelihood. There is an ongoing partnership with USAID and the City Government of Tacloban to identify and provide alternative sites for at least 1,500 households to safer areas. (Melo M. Acuña/CBCPNews)

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