It is almost a year since the most powerful storm ever recorded hit the island communities of the Philippines. Thanks to the support of our donors, ShelterBox launched one of its largest responses to date and is still today committed to assisting families that were affected by the storm. Throughout the coming week we will look back on Typhoon Haiyan as we remember the communities in the Philippines that suffered at the violence of the storm, and the communities around the world that rallied together in their support.
Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on 8 November 2013 claiming 6,200 lives and destroying a million homes. In the five months following the disaster, more than 100 ShelterBox response team volunteers have delivered emergency shelter to help over 7,200 families, including 1,513 ShelterBoxes. We distributed an additional 5,763 tents, but ShelterBox also provided other non-food items including 10,000 solar lights, 870 water filtration systems, 2,300 mosquito nets, 445 tool kits and 30 SchoolBoxes. On the day that Haiyan hit, a tropical storm expert speaking to the BBC said ‘Super Typhoon Haiyan really is a beast. One of the strongest storms ever recorded with sustained winds of 190 mph, gusting even higher.’
ShelterBox had already been responding to an earthquake in northern Bohol when the storm struck the region. Mark Dyer from the US and Paul Crudgington from the UK were two of the ShelterBox response team volunteers who sought shelter from the storm and who leapt into action once it had passed.
It was thanks to donors who had funded ShelterBox’s practice of prepositioning aid in key locations around the world that Paul and Mark, and later other additional response team members, were able to quickly release vitally needed aid from the former US air base at Clark on Luzon Island. Working with the operations team based in the UK, response teams sprang into action assessing where the need would be greatest. ShelterBox decided to focus its efforts on the areas that no other aid agencies had yet assisted, an approach which soon led the response teams to Bantayan island, off Cebu, where there was reported to be around 80% devastation.
Despite ShelterBox’s ability to mobilise a swift response the logistical challenges posed by the islands and the sheer number of boats and trucks that had been damaged by the storm, led to the decision to establish a team in Cebu. This team was tasked with ensuring the safe passage of aid and logistics, and several other teams then branched out onto other islands. The scale of devastation caused by Haiyan differed hugely from that of the earthquake which struck Haiti in 2010 and so our response had to be tailored appropriately. A major difference was that the main concentration of aid effort in Haiti was contained within one area located near the airport, allowing for the fast passage of aid. In contrast the teams in the Philippines were faced with weeks of island hopping aboard small boats and vehicles, significantly damaged communications infrastructure and drawn-out efforts to overcome transport challenges. Operations manager Alf Evans described the conditions as ‘the worst geography you could possibly come across for a natural disaster.’
Despite this the response effort continued, now growing to include teams operating across Tacloban, Panay, Cebu and Bantayan. As the operational commitment grew so too did the outpouring of support from supporters around the world.
A groundswell of support
‘Reading about the Philippines. The typhoon has claimed the lives of 10,000 or more people. Never a better time to donate to ShelterBox.’ Tweet by acclaimed American author, Maureen Johnson.
Even before ShelterBox had launched the Typhoon Haiyan emergency appeal, before we had received such magnificent outpourings of support from celebrities, authors, musicians and bloggers. Before all that we had learned of supporters mobilising their own fundraising efforts for ShelterBox across the globe in the hours after the disaster. Collections were held at local supermarkets, online fundraising pages were setup overnight, eBay auctions sprang to life and children even endured sponsored silences. Volunteers flocked to our warehouse in Cornwall to help pack ShelterBoxes and staff and volunteers worked around the clock to help get aid to the families in need. It was this groundswell of support that enabled ShelterBox to commit to helping communities in the Philippines and is the reason we continue to do so now, some 12 months on.
‘You have to remember that a lot of the more remote communities that were affected were previously dependent upon the fishing industry. Many of their boats and equipment were destroyed by the storm. Other communities made their living as coconut farmers and suffered similar loss of income too. Many of the coconut trees had taken ten years to grow and as a result of the storm they faced losing their entire income for the next ten years, overnight’ says Operations manager Alf Evans.
‘It was really important we did all we could to reach these communities and offer our support. The ShelterBox tents and non-food items meant that these communities could build shelter next to their destroyed houses, boats and farms and live there whilst they began rebuilding their livelihoods.’
Our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by the disaster.
As ShelterBox’s response to Haiyan crept into week two it was heart-warming to hear stories from our response teams, of families on remote islands moving into ShelterBox tents.
On one such island, in the village of Machumben, lived one of the estimated five million children who were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. His name was Chip Chip. He was, at the time of writing, five years old and was one of 18 in his family. Chip Chip’s mum was seven months pregnant. Thanks to the support of our donors, he and his family received a ShelterBox tent and other aid items allowing them to continue farming their land and beginning to rebuild their destroyed home.
Everyone at ShelterBox would like to thank our donors who expressed such immense generosity and allowed us to work to assist families following Typhoon Haiyan. As we approach the one-year anniversary of this response we thank everyone who donated to our appeal and our thoughts are with everyone who was affected by the disaster.