When Super Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, swept across the Visayas region of the Philippines on 8 November 2013, it became the strongest typhoon in recorded history to make landfall.
By the time Haiyan had left the Philippine Area of Responsibility, approximately 14.1 million people were affected, 4 million of which were forced to flee their homes, over 6,000 individuals had lost their lives, and 5.6 million survivors were at risk of food insecurity.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm and in response to the Philippine Government’s clarion call to address the priority needs of the worst-stricken areas, the World Food Programme (WFP) launched an emergency operation targeting the most vulnerable populations located in the hardest hit areas of Leyte, Panay, and Samar.
Providing immediate food assistance
WFP immediately implemented general food distribution in November, closely working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) by providing rice and nutrition commodities to supplement DSWD’s ‘family pack’ which also included canned sardines and instant noodles. Through partnerships with various key government agencies, local government units (LGUs) as well as international and national non-government organizations (NGOs), WFP provided over 35,000 metric tons (mt) of rice to 2.95 million affected individuals in 138 municipalities throughout 10 provinces in the Visayas region.
Procopio Molina and Lilian Florendo, both left homeless in the wake of the super typhoon, were among the recipients of this food assistance. Both still vividly recall the timely, vital aid they received.
“The rice from WFP and food from the DSWD were a huge help because we had nothing to eat at that time,” Procopio said.
“The first relief that we got was one sack of rice,” explained Lilian. “I was really happy, I said, ‘Thank you Lord for this rice.’ Every month, we received one sack of rice.”
A year later, Procopio and Lilian continue to rebuild their lives on the foundations of hope.
Currently residing in a temporary house, Procopio has been building his family a new place to call home. “Eventually, we’ll have a new house. Merely half remains unfinished,” shared the 57-year old.
Despite the difficulties, Procopio remains optimistic. “We know things will get better. There’s always hope,” he said.
Meanwhile, having rebuilt their house, Lilian and her family now lend a helping hand to other people.
“When my family lost our house, people helped us rebuild it, so I want to do the same for others,” she shared. “When I heard my nephew had lost his grandfather and he and his cousin were left to fend for themselves, I arranged for a galvanized steel roof and some lumber so that they could reconstruct their house.”
For now, Lilian hopes that they will be able to fully recover from Haiyan. She has begun producing coconut wine once again to support her family’s income.
“We are truly grateful for those who gave to us as it was a really big help. We are in a better state now than we were before,” she said.
Emergency cash assistance
Noting the collapse of the main drivers of the local economy, WFP initiated an unconditional cash transfer programme in December when signs of market recovery became visible and financial delivery mechanisms became available in certain areas. The cash grant aimed to satisfy the additional food and non-food requirements of affected families as well as stimulate the local economy. WFP leveraged on the DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) by topping up the government grant for two rounds with a fixed emergency cash assistance of PHP1,300 per 4Ps household. WFP also worked with NGOs to reach those who are not 4Ps members, but have also been severely affected by the typhoon. In total, nearly 530,000 individuals in 61 municipalities in the affected provinces were supported with cash assistance.
Noemi Kho, a mother to 5 children, had lost her husband during the onslaught of Typhoon Haiyan.
“It was a huge, life-changing loss,” Noemi shared. “It made me realize that life is too short. If you have something to say to your loved ones, say it while they’re alive. You don’t know if they’ll be gone tomorrow.”
For Noemi, the cash grant helped her purchase other food needs, clothes, and school materials for her children.
“On behalf of the members of the 4Ps, we are thankful to WFP, because even in such a short amount of time, you were a big help to us in providing for our children,” said Noemi.
The family now lives in a temporary bunkhouse provided by the DSWD. Noemi has a new business selling t-shirts to tourists in MacArthur Landing Memorial Park.
Noemi radiates resilience as she shares how they are coping after Haiyan.
“I will manage, for my children,” she declared. “I don’t show helplessness in front of them. When my children realized their father was gone, they asked, ‘Ma, where will we go? Who will take care of our education?’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, you will all go to school, you will all be fed.’ That’s what I told my children, so now I give them hope.”
Nutrition support to the most vulnerable
To address health and hunger risks in the typhoon-affected communities, resources and efforts were also specifically devoted to vulnerable mothers and children who were at risk of acute malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, especially those who were taking refuge in evacuation centres. WFP, in partnership with the Department of Health, the National Nutrition Council, UNICEF, NGOs, and LGUs, fielded nutrition interventions.
Rubilyn Mansalay, Rizalina’s youngest child, was one of over 141,000 recipients of WFP’s nutrition support.
“The living conditions in the evacuation center made it difficult for my family. I worried about my children’s health, especially for my youngest daughter. Rubilyn was getting thinner and weaker, so when WFP informed me that she would be included in their nutrition programme, I was very happy and felt reassured that things will get better.”
Under WFP’s blanket and targeted supplementary feeding programmes, Rubilyn received ready-to-use supplementary foods (RUSFs) such as Plumpy’Doz and Plumpy’Sup. These RUSFs provide young children with the vital nutrients they need during the important days of early development, a period placed at risk during times of emergencies.
A year has passed since Haiyan made landfall and during this period, WFP, through the assistance of the rural health unit, has been able to help Rubilyn and other young children maintain their good health and nutritional status allowing them to combat diseases and other long term effects of malnutrition during this critical period in the aftermath of the storm.
“When I see how healthy my daughter is now, I can’t help but smile. I am thankful that I still have my loved ones and that they are healthy because of the assistance from WFP and its donors.”
The World Food Programme reached nearly 3 million people with food, nutrition and cash assistance, made possible with generous contributions from Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, Finland, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America, and private donors.