In order to guarantee for a basic medical care, the humedica doctors offer weekly consultations in the bunkhouses. Photo: humedica/Alexandra Vlantos
100 days after “Haiyan”
For observers, the typhoon catastrophe on the Philippian islands Leyte and Samar seems to have happened a long time ago. The world has continued revolving, new headlines have caught the public interest and other humanitarian deficiencies have come to the fore. Life goes on, but for the victims on the Philippines nothing has remained the same now, exactly 100 days after “Haiyan”.
Let’s have a look back on the time after the catastrophe. Read about how humedica team members on-site have experienced their time in the badly hit city Tacloban, how the current situation of the people there turns out to be and which help measures are being planned by humedica for the next one hundred days.
We want to start with a current report of the humedica coordinator Alexandra Vlantos. The 31-year-old has been organizing medical care measures as well as the distribution of aid supplies in Tacloban.
100 days after “Haiyan” – the start of a new era
“I have been on the Philippines since the beginning of January. I haven’t been here in Tacloban, when the typhoon raged, when roofs, cars and even whole houses flew through the air, when the water stood meters high in the buildings and people swam for their lives.
And I haven’t experienced either how big the destruction was in the beginning, as the smell of dead bodies hovered in the air, when there was no food for days and when desperate people wrote in big letters “we need food” or help us” on their roofs.
A hundred days later, a little bit of normality has come back to the catastrophe region. The acute emergency situation is over, also says the government. The injured persons could be medically cared for, food is being distributed. Every day, you can observe the people liberating their town, piece by piece, of the debris and the waste.
Most families have found shelter at relatives’ or in tents. Many of them are undeviatingly searching for useable building material in the debris. A man is straightening deformed nails with a hammer, in order to reuse them. In the center, more and more shops, restaurants and banks are re-opening.
Big parts of the city have got electricity again. And even the beloved karaoke bars have opened again. So, has everyday life partly come back into the lives of the women, men and children who had been hit so hard by the typhoon?
Not really. A look behind the people’s smiles, even in a quick talk, shows the long-lasting consequences of the catastrophe. From the question about where to find a baker’s shop to a simple “How are you?” each exchange of phrases contains the expression “before Haiyan” or “since Hayan”. It seems that a new era has started after the big typhoon.
“Since Haiyan” thousands of families have lived in the evacuation centers of the city. The wooden bunkhouses could only be built after the cleanup had been advanced enough. The first settlement was opened last week. 177 families are already living there.
The rooms, three by four meters large, are meant to shelter four persons. The closely spaced bunkhouses contain ten of these small rooms each. There isn’t much space outside neither. Each breath, every movement and each word – the neighbors hear everything. .
Once a week, humedica provides medical care in the bunkhouses. As I have a look around the narrow spaces, I suddenly hear a great noise from one of the small rooms. I see two children who are running from one wall to the other, letting themselves fall against it with full force.
In the small corridor in front of it, mattresses, saucepans and plastic chairs are being carried past. A small boy is riding his bike in the midst of all this. It is narrow and noisy, but it is a new home at last and a dry roof over their heads.
During our first visit, I meet Ernesto and his father John. “Since Haiyan” they suffer from insomnia. They don’t say anymore. It is only after asking them for more details that they tell us their story: Ernesto lost his mother, his three brothers and sisters and his grandparents in the typhoon. His father John saw all of them die. Being highly traumatized, he must now care for his only child’s physical and psychical well-being.
Fortunately not all people here have experienced such a tragic story. However, existential fear is omnipresent. “I thought about it for a long time if I should come into the bunkhouse settlement,” says the young mother Gina.
“Before Haiyan we used to live near the harbor. I owned a small sales stall there and my husband worked on the port. Now everything has been destroyed. We don’t have any more customers and our home is nothing more than debris.”
Next to her is her little daughter Aireen. The school she used to go to has been used as an evacuation center, since Haiyan. Normality will only be back when everyday life will have re-instated itself, when the children can go to school and when their parents have work again. Aireen’s family is still far away from this. Nobody knows here how things will go on.
“I decided to come to the settlement because it is one first step towards everyday life. Our life will never again be what it was “before Haiyan.” The tears in Gina’s eyes reflect the hard reality of this knowledge. The family will never be able to go back to their old house.
In order to protect the population of further catastrophes, the government decided to install a forty meter wide area subject to a building ban along the coastline. But the family will not stay in the bunkhouses neither, because the administration is planning a big relocation into the north of Tacloban. There, permanent homes shall be built for the concerned population.
All this will take a long time. A new era has started. However, the people are still far away from the normality and the independence they knew before.”
One hundred days after the typhoon catastrophe, this topic has nearly completely disappeared from the media reports and thus from public notice. However, for the people on the Philippines a new reality has appeared. A reality in which we want to continue helping the concerned people with directed relief measures.
humedica e. V.
Reference “Typhoon Philippines”
Account 47 47
Bank Code 734 500 00