The Yolanda disaster caused so much suffering among the lives of people. Here, our team prays for the pastor of a local church. His house was totally destroyed. His wife and children were hungry when we arrived. Many of his neighbors died. He cannot locate the families belonging to his congregation. As an arm of the Philippine Evangelical Disaster Response Network, our teams go to every municipality to locate the pastors in every town to bring relief and to facilitate rehabilitation process with their families, with their congregations, and with their barangays (villages). Photo by Daniel Byron ‘Bee’ Pantoja.

:: People are beginning to get tents and tarps from international donors.

:: We saw survivors queuing for relief goods. While smiling, a man gave us the middle finger. Tired of photographers taking their pictures? Angry?

:: Local, national, and international aid authorities report that most communities are served.

:: Food seems to be quickly distributed from international donors, to the national government, then to the local government units (LGUs). Then it seems to have a bottleneck at the LGU level:

  • The mayors and other LGU officials are also survivors. They also lost their homes. Some of them lost their loved-ones. They need help themselves.
  • A few provincial and LGU officials are nowhere to be found. Some have left the town or city under their leadership, assigned an officer-in-charge to take care of their constituents, and stayed in some hotels or condos in Cebu, Manila and other unaffected cities to get away from the mess that Haiyan (Yolanda) caused.
  • Some LGUs re-packed the Sphere-standard relief packs into half. One of the reasons mostly given by the LGUs was that, they did not have enough for everybody: “We need to divide them by half to accommodate everybody.” But the regional office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) insists that they delivered enough to the LGUs. Whatever! Many sphere-packs seem to disappear somewhere through the pipeline.
  • A pastor in a city testified that he and his church congregation have not received anything from their barangay (village) leaders since day one of the disaster. He whispered, “Please do not let the barangay distribute your relief packs; give courtesy call to the barangay captain but distribute them yourselves.”

:: We saw some firefighters retrieve six dead bodies from a river bank. People here still fear that more than 10,000 died. Perhaps more. Some officials up there seems to be embarrassed to report the real numbers.

:: We heard a local pastor complaining about the disrespectful attitudes of their fellow Christians from the United States who came with their relief goods and services, asking for a covered space to pitch their tents. The local survivors, out of their hospitality, cheerfully gave their scarce spaces within that covered hall, and shared (further squeezed) other families’ small space in the other end of the hall. There’s a lot of space for a stateside tent outside!

:: We also heard a group of American Christian brothers who ‘requested’ (in polite but assertive English, which sounded like a command from the listening perspective of traumatized local people in the island) for a usable toilet and a nearby water source — a problem the locals are still trying to solve for the thousands of their fellow survivors.

:: We entered into a survivor pastor’s house. As we introduced ourselves, we sensed doubt, anger, and frustration. They double-checked our identities. They expressed their skepticism: “We’ll just see when you actually come back with help.” I asked another local pastor about that event. He answered: “They are tired of visitors asking for data that further remind them of their helplessness. They don’t want to feel like being seduced to beg for help.” The pastor refers to an outside organization collecting data to support relief proposals, which is the conventional way of doing disaster response.

:: The survivors are still hopeful. A sugarcane farmer said: “Sugar canes, even when hit by typhoon and fall, eventually stand up. Like our people.”


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Permanent link to this article: https://peacebuilderscommunity.org/2013/12/yolanda-haiyan-disaster-notes-three-weeks-after/

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