After typhoon Haiyan hit, a year ago tomorrow, I flew out as part of a Save the Children team, to help those affected. We found chaos: trees felled, homes gutted, schools destroyed.
Almost everywhere you looked, the battered landscape bore the scars left behind by the strongest typhoon ever to make landfall. Winds of up to 170mph and waves reaching 5 metres high had left utter destruction in their wake.
But as almost everyone who worked on typhoon Haiyan will tell you, an extraordinary storm was met with an equally extraordinary response, particularly by those most affected: local people.
“Homeless, roofless but not hopeless”
I remember seeing families literally piecing their homes back together and children returning to their damaged schools in droves, despite many losing their uniforms, books and even classrooms.
Towns and villages were littered with signs declaring messages like “Homeless, roofless but not hopeless”. Their resilience was truly inspiring.
The bulk of our staff, too – most of them local people who had been directly affected – are some of the most dedicated people I have ever had the good luck to work with.
Incredible resilience from those most affected
Tomorrow we are exactly a year on from when Haiyan first struck off the coast of Tacloban. And those signs of hope, determination and resilience are if anything, more visible than ever.
I think Save the Children can take some credit for that. To date, we have reached over 800,000 people with lifesaving aid, recovery and rehabilitation support.
Save the Children was on the ground when it mattered
We have distributed food and water; provided medicines and primary health services through our mobile health clinics; repaired classrooms, health facilities and water systems; and provided shelter, household and hygiene items to keep children safe.
Our team has grown to over 500 in three field sites. And despite having transitioned from emergency relief work to rehabilitation, we continue to support thousands of vulnerable families to help overcome the long-term impacts of Haiyan.
But unfortunately, it is not all over yet
Every day, more children, families and communities get back on their feet, but in some of the hardest-hit areas, thousands of families continue to live in temporary shelters and are struggling to recover the livelihoods they once depended on.
One year on, it is great to be able to celebrate the outstanding resilience and commitment shown by the Filipino people in the face of such adversity. But we mustn’t forget those still fighting to rebuild their lives.
Even a year on, shelter and livelihood support are of critical importance and if those affected don’t receive the long-term support they so desperately need, the trail of devastation left by typhoon Haiyan could last for years.