Editorial: It’s not yet over

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Thursday, January 2, 2014

THE holiday season is over, the Noche Buena and Media Noche now but a memory remembered only by the wider girths these have left. We’re back at work, life resumes normalcy.


The holidays may have brought cheers, and we’re still giddy from all the food and drinks we’ve had, but those who have lost their homes and livelihood in Eastern Visayas and neighboring provinces are still groping for handholds toward recovery.

In the Multi-Cluster Needs Assessment spearheaded by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), it lists housing as a key priority among the affected population. In fact, more than half of the population of Samar, Eastern Samar, and Leyte remain displaced. It’s never easy to rebuild, never mind if national government would want us to believe otherwise.

More than a year after typhoon Pablo, relocation sites for affected residents in New Bataan remain a promise. Now imagine the swathe of destruction made by typhoon Yolanda. Impossible that in one and a half month’s time, everything will return to normal and that the regions affected are already in the rebuilding phase, as National Government officials would want us to believe.

Household incomes will remain limited for many months to come, the report warned; with household income levels halved. Meaning, the poorest of the poor are way below destitution level and the middle income may be wallowing in poverty.

“In urban areas, the proportion of people seeking for work is up by 10 percent,” the report reads.

Survivors also have to contend with restricted access to basic nutrition, sanitation, and education services.

“Garbage collection, waste management, drainage and sewage are among key infrastructure and services that remain non-functional, raising concern for health and nutrition outcomes,” the report points out.

Now imagine the squalor amid the filth and think of how life can return to normal in that environment.

Access to reproductive health services is nil, and children are out of school for two main reasons: there is no school to speak of as this have been destroyed, family income can no longer cover education, and children must contribute to family income.

Of course, there is the concern for food. While indeed, food consumption has improved since the typhoon hit, approximately 27 percent of the population surveyed remains food insecure.

“Food assistance is a major food source for the affected population which has enabled many households to maintain an acceptable food consumption,” the report says. Yes, economic activities are resuming, but the same cannot be said of the people’s purchasing power made worse by high and volatile prices that traders attribute to the difficulty to bring in stocks.

All throughout, there is the insecurity of not having their homes to lock themselves in to protect their women and children at their most vulnerable states.

In short, two of the basic needs – food and shelter – remain wanting, and this becomes worse because livelihoods were destroyed and it will take months for recovery to be felt. The worst is not over yet.

As our neighborhood tambay will say, “tulong-tulong din kung may time”. But at this stage, the assistance that will have more impact will be towards livelihood development.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on January 03, 2014.


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