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Philippines: With Typhoon Past, Family Builds New Home

Since a typhoon destroyed their home last year, Mildred's family has been living on a beach. Their fishing boat damaged and their savings exhausted, they had nowhere to turn. But their fortunes are changing with a programme that takes care of food needs as they rebuild their lives.

By Michelle McGonagle and Romelita Idia

MANILA – Mildred, 29, will never forget the night last September when Typhoon Ketsana made landfall on Luzon. “It was the most terrifying night of my life,” she said, recalling the flight from her family’s hut as the storm clouds approached.

She and her two children fled to higher ground while her husband stayed behind to look after their home. But there was nothing he could do to keep the hurricane-force winds from knocking it down and blowing away their possessions. Mildred and her children returned the next day to find themselves homeless and their one source of income — their fishing boat — lying damaged on the beach.

Exposed to the elements

“We couldn’t afford to repair the boat so we had to borrow money,” says Mildred. Now in debt and with nowhere to live, she and her family stayed near the sea. Their new “home” was under a bed-sheet canopy that offered some shelter from the sun, but none at all from the rain.

After a month of exposure to the elements, they were given a camping tent by aid workers, where they have lived ever since. Meanwhile, her husband kept going out to sea in the hope of catching enough fish to sell, but rarely brought home any more than he needed to feed his family.

A new home

Mildred and her family are still in the tent, but have a new reason to hope for a better future every time they walk out and see their new home under construction just a kilometre away. Mildred's husband is helping to build it himself thanks to a Food for Assets programme that keeps his family fed while he works to give them a roof.

He spends a few days a week hauling rocks, digging trenches, mixing cement and building houses that he and other families who lost their homes will soon move into. The productive work. focused on the future, also gives his family and others the sense that the emergency is over and life can get back to normal.

In close partnership with the Philippine government, WFP has launched 450 Food for Assets projects designed to help families like Mildred’s get back on their feet.

Some 95,000 households in the poorest and hardest-hit areas stand to benefit from the scheme, which will also rebuild storm shelters, repair roads and help residents prepare for the next time a typhoon comes their way.