Oxfam International Blogs - humanitarian disaster http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/tags/humanitarian-disaster en Yolanda on My Mind: The Odyssey of a Humanitarian Worker http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/18-11-08-yolanda-my-mind-odyssey-humanitarian-worker <div class="field field-name-body"><p><strong>Humanitarian workers are regularly confronted by difficult choices.</strong></p><p>What humanitarian worker hasn't been stuck in a situation where good intentions are not enough, in the face of bad or worse options? As a frontline emergency responder for almost ten years, I have been in situations where every decision or step I made had no easy answers.</p><p>With Yolanda, globally known as <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Haiyan" rel="nofollow">Super Typhoon Haiyan</a>, we had to make the choice of trailing the powerful storm with the belief that people will need life-saving support. In so doing, staff were necessarily thrown in a vast sea of uncertainty. In the affected areas, we had to veritably knock on doors, asking who could offer us a place to stay or lend us vehicles, so that we could reach the hardest hit areas quickly. We had to step forward, then pivot when needed, and then step sideways - always having to trust that doing something is better than doing nothing.</p><h3>Yolanda’s staggering destruction</h3><p>Yolanda swept through eastern provinces of 591 towns and 57 cities in 44 of the country’s 80 provinces. The massive rainfall lasted until the midnight of Friday, and by the following day we flew in three rapid assessment teams to badly hit areas of Eastern Samar, Tacloban City, and, Northern Cebu.</p><p>My team in Davao spent our weekend in the office to monitor the development.&nbsp; Still vexed with what was going on, I came to an international conference in Davao where I was scheduled to deliver a talk.&nbsp;</p><p>Close to about 9 AM, I received a call from the Manila to pick up my plane ticket which would fly me to Cebu around 12 noon, where we established our base of operation, even as we struggled to connect with our assessment teams.</p><p><img alt="Typhoon Haiyan in numbers" title="Typhoon Haiyan in numbers" height="1200" width="1200" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="2" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/haiyan-in-numbers_final.jpg" /></p><p><strong>By Wednesday our response was rolling</strong> in Northern Cebu and Tacloban, but the situation in Eastern Samar was still largely unknown. By the following Saturday, I was asked to fly in to Borongan with a couple of staff of Morong Volunteers Emergency Response Team to scope the impact areas.</p><p>The destruction wrought by the strongest typhoon ever recorded in modern Philippine history has been staggering. In its wake, Yolanda had left at least 6,200 dead, 28,600 injured, 550,900 houses destroyed and 589,400 more were damaged.</p><p>The full monetary value of the impact of Yolanda range from USD13 to 14.5 billion. The estimated damage to agriculture was at $225 million.</p><p>From my perspective, this figure appears to be a small fraction of the actual losses but what was clear was that poorest villages bore the heaviest brunt.</p><p>Within the next three weeks, our global humanitarian team were fully set up.&nbsp; I went back to my post in Davao with all the harrowing experiences of the dead and missing, of devastated lives and livelihoods which will haunt me for years.</p><p><img alt="Oxfam response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)" title="Oxfam response to Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)" height="1200" width="1200" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="1" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/oxfam-response-1200x1200.jpg" /></p><h3>Transitioning from emergency- to long-term recovery responses</h3><p>About a year and a half after Yolanda hit, I was asked to manage the transition of our emergency response to long term recovery. At that time, only a tiny fraction of displaced families has been relocated to permanent shelters on safer grounds.&nbsp;</p><p>Minimum liveability standards – e.g., safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, affordable electricity services, proximity to health and education services and livelihood opportunities – still seemed to be beyond reach.</p><p>Displaced families were still uncertain over when and where they would be moved, as they have lived the lives of beneficiaries rather than stakeholders in finding lasting solutions.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Their perspectives were not represented</strong> in decision making processes that affected their lives in a profound sense. This, while they endured individual and community living which was marked by increasing insecurity and instability, with less access to income-generating opportunities, disrupted schooling and mobility, minimal protection from the elements, and minimal privacy and practical necessities for one’s bodily integrity, including sexual and reproductive health and well-being.</p><p>Indeed, the sheer scale of devastation brought about by Yolanda would challenge any government. With its complexities, Yolanda also forced aid agencies like Oxfam to confront the question that has animated the aid sector for a long time, which is, whether or not there is such a thing as ‘natural’ disasters.&nbsp; For sure there are unnatural events which could greatly challenge the ability of even some of the strongest countries.&nbsp;</p><p>What is clear is that disasters become inevitable if preparedness is lacking.</p><p><img alt="Typhoon Haiyan - rebulding homes" title="Typhoon Haiyan - rebulding homes" height="1084" width="1200" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="3" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/sharequote-1-final.jpg" /></p><h3>Building local leadership and capabilities</h3><p>The list of things to do on preparedness, which Oxfam has now been investing in heavily, include building local capabilities – of local governments and local NGOS – to mount a speedy and sizeable response.</p><p>Fully capable local humanitarian actors will ensure that the emergency response will be ‘as local as possible and only as international as necessary’.</p><p>It will also help keep international organisations like Oxfam stay focused on reinforcing and not replacing local systems, where we can deploy our expertise on compliance to humanitarian standards.</p><p><strong>Yolanda also forced us to <a href="https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/blog/2013/12/after-haiyan-crucial-steps-in-the-path-to-recovery" rel="nofollow">re-think</a></strong><a href="https://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/blog/2013/12/after-haiyan-crucial-steps-in-the-path-to-recovery" rel="nofollow"> some of our strategies</a> on development programming which could potentially shrink our humanitarian footprint.</p><p>Top of this is a rational land use planning system which will move vital infrastructures, economic investments, and vulnerable communities away from geo-hazard areas.</p><p>To this I add that investing in sophisticated early warning system which could stretch the lead time for civil and military apparatuses to be able to kick off their contingency plans.</p><p><img alt="Typhoon Haiyan - preserving people&#039;s dignity" title="Typhoon Haiyan - preserving people&#039;s dignity" height="1093" width="1200" class="media-element file-default" data-delta="4" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/sharequote-2-final.jpg" /></p><h3>The role of the private sector</h3><p>Incentivising the entry of private sector into insurance markets should a matter of public policy priority so that losses could be mitigated when a discrete event like Yolanda becomes inevitable.&nbsp;</p><p>An increase on insurance coverage/penetration is inversely correlated with public spending for rehabilitation and recovery or reduces the tax burden on the people.</p><p>Damage to school buildings, public market, rural health clinics, bus terminals and similar infrastructural investments meant that recovering losses require painful tradeoffs in terms of what other basic services would have to be foregone such as primary health, education, and similar investments in development.</p><p>For private sector in particular, business continuity planning needs to be part of its operations to minimise disruptions which discrete events invariably entail which oftentimes reverberate into the rural economies.</p><h3>Are we ready for the next one?</h3><p>Steps such as land use planning, early warning system, risk transfers, and business continuity planning are what falls into the cracks between the highly compartmentalised zones of humanitarian and development discourses, where you have emergency preparedness and response on one hand and macroeconomics (e.g., fiscal stability, employment, and, inflation) on the other.</p><p>Today, as we celebrate the fifth anniversary of Yolanda, it is necessary to confront the difficult question: are we ready for the next one?</p><p><em>This entry posted on 8 November 2018, by Dante Dalabajan, Senior Manager of Oxfam in the Philippines where he manages a team of advisors and specialists on humanitarian and development programming, campaigning, and aid response.</em></p><p><em>Top photo: Scene from Oxfam Assessment Team while surveying the impact of Typhoon Haiyan, just days after it hit in Samar, Philippines. Credit: Jire Carreon/Oxfam</em></p><p><strong>Read more<br></strong></p><p><strong><a href="https://blogs.oxfam.org/en/tags/philippines">Blogs about Oxfam in the Philippines</a><br></strong></p><p><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies" rel="nofollow"><strong>More on Oxfam's humanitarian work</strong></a></p><p></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Yolanda on My Mind: The Odyssey of a Humanitarian Worker</h2></div> Thu, 08 Nov 2018 14:12:38 +0000 Guest Blogger 81774 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/18-11-08-yolanda-my-mind-odyssey-humanitarian-worker#comments Nepal earthquake 6 months on: The race to rebuild before winter http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/15-10-25-nepal-earthquake-6-months-race-rebuild-winter <div class="field field-name-body"><p>Have you ever wondered how the tassels are made on the ends of those soft pashmina shawls? Well meet Rita Mijar, a Nepal earthquake survivor, who skilfully twists each tassel before tying each one with a knot. She gets paid just 6 rupees (less than 4p) per pashmina and can do 10-15 shawls a day, earning her family as little as 90 rupees (58p) a day.</p> <p><img alt="Rita&#039;s home was destroyed in the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. Photo: Ian Bray/Oxfam" title="Rita&#039;s home was destroyed in the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. Photo: Ian Bray/Oxfam" height="280" width="280" style="float: right;" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/94946lpr-rita-280x280.jpg" />Rita is a mother of three daughters and lives in the village of Lamatar about an hour’s drive outside Nepal’s capital of Kathmandu. Rita is married to Suraj, a cobbler by trade. Six months ago Nepal was rocked by a powerful earthquake and Rita and Suraj’s lives were turned upside down. Their home and Suraj’s small shop was destroyed and with it so was their livelihood.</p> <p><strong>They managed to dig out</strong> of the collapsed shop some of Suraj’s stock of shoes he had made and his shoe molds. His sewing machine was also salvaged but it needs repairing before he can use it.</p> <p>Like everyone in Lamatar Rita, Suraj and family had to sleep out in the open for many weeks after the earthquake. They eventually managed to build a temporary home out of corrugated sheeting and bamboo provided by a local aid organisation Oxfam supports. They also got food, blankets and sleeping mats, along with hygiene essentials such as soap.</p> <p><strong>The family was doing nicely before the earthquake.</strong> Suraj is a good cobbler and has trained many others in his trade. He specialises in making shoes for school children and he had good contracts with the local colleges. He would make eight to 10 shoes in a day and earn 500-700 rupees ($4.60-$6.50) clear profit. By Western standards this is not very much, but in Lamatar a little goes a long way.</p> <p><img alt="Suraj’s home and shop were destroyed in the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, and them his livelihood. Photo: Ian Bray/Oxfam" title="Suraj’s home and shop were destroyed in the April 2015 Nepal earthquake, and them his livelihood. Photo: Ian Bray/Oxfam" height="280" width="280" style="float: right;" class="media-element file-default" typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://l.blogs.oxfam/sites/default/files/94945lpr-man-shoe-280x280.jpg" />Suraj is unsure when he can restart his shoe making business. The shop needs rebuilding but so does his house. He thinks if he can rebuild his house first he would be able to run his business from there.  But he has another problem. He is in debt to the tune of 300,000 rupees ($2,775) and the money lender is asking for repayment.</p> <p>People owe him money as well. Though not a rich man, nor even one who is comfortably off, Suraj used to offer credit to customers who were short of cash when they bought shoes from his shop. He says he is owed 50-60,000 Rupees ($460-$550) from numerous customers. He has been to see some of them to ask for payment. Like his family they are also earthquake survivors and he says that having seen the conditions they are living in he hasn’t the heart to ask for the money.</p> <p><strong>To get his business up and running</strong> he says he would need 2-300,000 rupees ($1,850-$2,775). Even if he didn’t have his current debt the chances of getting a new loan is slim because since the earthquake the money lenders have tighten up their conditions and are asking for surety on loans. All Suraj and Rita have as surety is a broken down house.</p> <p>In the meantime they make ends meet on Rita’s tassel twisting and Suraj getting work in Lamatar helping to construct temporary buildings. A local organisation is helping the villagers rebuild and Suraj has managed to get fairly regular contract work with them. It is also harvest time for the rice crop so there could be work in the fields and the chance to earn 300 rupees a day if they are lucky.</p> <p>Rita and Suraj are not alone. Nearly everyone in the village is finding it difficult to make ends meet. They have survived the earthquake and have been given temporary shelter thanks to the generous donations people gave to the Nepal earthquake appeal. They have managed to get so far but they are a long way from any sense of recovery. There is also another potential disaster looming.</p> <p><strong>Winter is not far off.</strong> Those houses made of corrugated sheeting have kept them safe through summer but offer little protection against the cold. People in the village are already worried and complain that they don’t have thick blankets and clothes to ward off the worse of a harsh Himalayan winter. </p> <p>There needs to be a massive effort to get winter aid to people before the chill winds come down from the mountains. But before this can happen there is a hurdle to overcome.</p> <p><strong>Nepal is currently <a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-10-23/six-months-nepal-earthquake-delays-policy-and-fuel-crisis-holding" rel="nofollow">in the grip</a></strong><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressreleases/2015-10-23/six-months-nepal-earthquake-delays-policy-and-fuel-crisis-holding" rel="nofollow"> <strong>of a fuel crisis</strong></a> due to political conflicts in the south of the country which are choking off the flow of fuel across the border from India. Moving vast amount of aid around the country will rely heavily on a regular supply of fuel and while the fuel crisis continues, the winter aid effort will be stymied.</p> <p>Sorting the political difference in the south needs to be resolved urgently if earthquake survivors are to avoid what could be a second disaster.</p> <p><em>Since the immediate emergency phase of Oxfam's response, we have been able to reach over 445,000 people with clean water, sanitation, shelter and emergency food support, in seven districts, with a special focus on giving targeted support to women.</em></p> <p><em>This entry posted by Ian Bray, Oxfam Humanitarian Press Officer, on 25 October 2015.</em></p> <p><em>Photo: Over two thirds of the houses in the village of Burunchili, Kathmandu, were destroyed by the earthquake that struck Nepal in April 2015. Here, Palsang, 4, plays in the ruins of one of them. Credit: Sam Tarling/Oxfam</em></p> <h3>What you can do now</h3> <p><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/nepal-earthquake" rel="nofollow"><strong>Support Oxfam's Nepal Earthquake Response</strong></a></p> <h3>You may also like</h3> <p><strong><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/nepal-earthquake-nepal/nepal-earthquake-response-six-months" rel="nofollow">In photos: Oxfam's Nepal Earthquake response</a></strong></p> <p><a href="https://www.oxfam.org/en/emergencies/nepal-helping-locals-rebuild-community-infrastructure" rel="nofollow"><strong>Cash-for-Work helps people rebuild community infrastructure after Nepal earthquake</strong></a></p></div><div class="field field-name-title"><h2>Nepal earthquake 6 months on: The race to rebuild before winter</h2></div> Sun, 25 Oct 2015 08:50:46 +0000 Ian Bray 28165 at http://l.blogs.oxfam http://l.blogs.oxfam/en/blogs/15-10-25-nepal-earthquake-6-months-race-rebuild-winter#comments