Typhoon Haiyan: More than 200,000 still homeless

Typhoon Haiyan: More than 200,000 still homeless

TACLOBAN, Philippines - Super Typhoon Haiyan left more than a million people homeless when it pummelled central Philippines on Nov 8 last year.

In six months, most have managed to rebuild their homes - with the help of cash assistance, housing repair kits, and wood and galvanised sheets from the government and private donors.

But for the most part, it has been a help-yourself affair.

Some victims have had to scavenge through the debris and rubble that used to be homes.

Others, like Mr Pete Lacandazo, a 58-year-old fish pen worker, managed to raise money from the insurance of family members they lost.

Mr Lacandazo lost 22 members of his family the day that Haiyan hit. He has built a fence, four concrete corners and a roof from the insurance of his two daughters who died in the disaster.

But that money is also drying up. Mr Lacandazo, who is living in a makeshift shelter outside Tacloban, is just halfway through building his home. His house does not even have a door yet.

For more than 200,000 people who continue to live in tents and temporary shelters, there is no other choice but to settle elsewhere. Where and when they are going to move, however, are questions that still hang in the air.

In a report released on Tuesday, Senator Panfilo Lacson, the "rehabilitation czar" appointed by President Benigno Aquino to coordinate rehabilitation work, said the National Housing Authority and private sponsors have 182,843 houses "currently in the pipeline".

The real accomplishment, though, is less impressive: Only 130 units are completed and some 15,000 under construction.

Mr Lacson said that of the total 216,966 houses that it needs for relocating the homeless, the government, so far, has land for only 26,155. It needs 1.3 million ha more.

Tacloban Vice-Mayor Sambo Yaokasin said the issue of whether relocation sites are safe or unsafe must be addressed. "We're not relocating them again to a danger zone."

Other factors such as job opportunities and access to basic services are equally important.

"Relocation is much more than a house. It has the basic services element, the livelihood element, the recreating a community element. All of these need to happen at the same time," said Oxfam policy adviser Caroline Baudot.

Unless relocation is done hand in hand with livelihood, "people will either get poorer or they will just return to where they used to live", she added.

This article was published on May 8 in The Straits Times.

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