Stitching back their lives

Stitching back their lives

A year after one of the world's most powerful storms smashed the Philippines, a group of women are rebuilding their lives by weaving colourful reeds used in handicraft sold by the world's top retailers.

However, their "workshop" is a far cry from the high-end shops selling their products such as handbags and homeware at New York's Fifth Avenue.

Sitting in one of the caves dotting the seaside highway of Basey town in central Philippines, about a dozen women weave the reed plant.

Their product is sold to sustain their families who are still struggling to make ends meet after Typhoon Haiyan hit last Nov 8. "Weaving helps feed our families. But we...still don't earn enough," Ms Marilyn Corpus, 46, told Reuters from inside the cave whose cool temperature helps preserve the reed plant.

BREADWINNERS

Amid the despair and devastation wrought by Haiyan, which was the strongest storm ever recorded to hit land, hundreds of women weavers have emerged as the main breadwinners in their families.

Most said they received relief and building materials for their homes from foreign and local organisations and private groups, but none from the government, possibly because of their remote location.

But theirs is a rare story of hope in a rural economy that was mainly dependent on the coconut groves destroyed by the storm.

The Asian Development Bank estimates 5.6 million workers in a nation of about 100 million saw their means of earning a living ruined or seriously hurt by the disaster. About a third of those affected were already poor.

The government said it needs almost 170 billion pesos (S$4 billion) to rebuild all Haiyan-affected communities.

Mr Michel Rooijackers, deputy director for Philippine operations of Save the Children, said: "We're seeing very good signs of recovery, but we're not there yet."

He sadded that recent studies showed that many Haiyan survivors "are just meeting their survival level".

WHAT: Typhoon Haiyan on Nov 8, 2013

NUMBER OF PEOPLE AFFECTED: 14 million

CASUALTIES: 6,300 dead; 29,000 injured

NUMBER OF HOMES DESTROYED AND/OR SEVERELY DAMAGED: 1.1 million


This article was first published on Nov 08, 2014.
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