Thanks to our supporters, we’ve helped thousands of people affected by Typhoon Haiyan get a safe place to live, earn a living and prepare for future disasters. Chief executive Mike Adamson visited the Philippines in summer 2016 to see how your support is helping communities.
Docking our boat onto the island you could almost forget that just a few years ago something truly terrible happened here. The beautiful coastline and dramatic views of Panay island mask the cataclysmic damage caused by Typhoon Haiyan less than three years before.
The day before Haiyan hit, the Gemaol family were told to gather what they could. They took shelter in the nearest school, which had become an evacuation centre. The family knew it was serious, but they never imagined that when they were finally able to return there would be nothing left.
Their home, and everything in it, was completely destroyed.
"I’ve always thought the Red Cross as an organisation that gave relief to poor people, but I found out they do more than that. They help people get back on their feet," said Abigail Gemaol, who has moved back to her village, into her new home.
Building safer homes
The Philippines is no stranger to typhoons. It is one of the most disaster-hit countries in the world. Unfortunately, we can’t stop the next one from happening, but we can be prepared.
In the aftermath of Haiyan, the British Red Cross gave out emergency supplies. In the longer term we have being working with the Philippine Red Cross to help people like Abigail prepare for the future.
The Gemaols were just one of over 6,000 families we’ve helped to rebuild their homes under the Build Back Safer scheme.
Each house is designed to withstand high velocity wind. They are built up on stilts with a concrete foundation, to reduce the risk of flooding.
Red Cross volunteers have been trained to meticulously check every house, making sure they are built within the specific Red Cross approved guidelines, so that everyone is just that little bit safer.
While it may be impossible to protect everyone and everything from the devastation of natural disasters, planning and preparedness could be the difference between life and death.
Jobs and training improve lives
The people on Panay island and the rest of the Philippines did not just lose their homes. Millions lost the ability to generate a steady income. Shop-owners lost their stock. Rice farmers saw their paddies decimated. Fishermen were confronted with damaged reefs and a diminishing fish population.
The Red Cross has helped 4,000 people on this island with micro-enterprise grants and training. Not only has the scheme helped get people back on their feet, micro-enterprise investment has been proven to enhance people’s lives, setting them in better stead for whatever the future may bring.
Artificial reef offers food and income
Around 80 per cent of the population in Punta Buri take part in fishing and the population relies heavily on the fish for food and income. During Typhoon Haiyan, the coral reef surrounding the village sustained major damage.
“Since most of the people living in this community make their living as fishermen like my husband, we decided to take on as part of the association’s proposed projects the artificial reef,” said Susan Gomia, chairman of the Long Line Fishing Association. This is just one of the associations in the community who have received help from Red Cross micro-enterprise grants.
The artificial reef that now adorns the sea along the coast is impressive. Artificial reef modules are dropped into the sea with strips of coconut fronds, attracting more fish to the reef. This has helped local fishermen get back to work. They no longer have to make the perilous journey out to deep sea to find fish. The reef will also provide a vital source of food for the community.
“Now, the communities have a better prepared and informed mind-set, especially the younger generation, on how to cope with future disasters,” Susan remarked.
With the right access to tools, training and awareness, the impact of these disasters can be lessened. Our duty, as an organisation built on the principle of humanity, is to share our knowledge, resources and skills to help communities prepare for the worst, so that when the inevitable happens, they are ready.
- Donate to our Disaster Fund today to help us continue our work for communities after major crises.