A marker on a mass grave for more than 500 people at the Cathedral grounds in Palo, Leyte stand testament to the lack of a verifiable number as to how many people really perished as a largely unprepared central Philippines stood up against the strongest typhoon on earth. (Photo by JnGrey)

Tanauan News – A year after Yolanda: Negative coping strategies feared from the displaced, unemployed

TANAUAN NEWS – Survivors here working with a Rome based international humanitarian aid organization have noted the quiet resurgence of criminal activities like daytime theft and candid robberies a year after world efforts to save millions of Yolanda victims from starvation began for central Philippines.

“People have reported small entrepreneurs like ordinary fish vendors being waylaid in remote sitios by some armed persons. They take the proceeds of sale of their victims but let them go unharmed”, said teenaged Carlo, a Tanauan resident. “This behaviour in people has not been observed in recent years before Super Typhoon Yolanda”, he added.

The tragedy took away almost 8,000 lives and the livelihoods of an estimated 4 million people in this region. A year after the crisis event, the United Nations declared that the country is on the road to recovery but noted that “much work remained to be done for those displaced”.

Government have accepted that the rebuilding effort has been slow, with international aid organizations noting that millions of victims are struggling to survive under oppressive poverty. Many families still live in coastal areas where they are exposed to future dangers.

San Roque News, Leyte News, Eastern Visayas News
Unemployment, lack of basic facilities, and sanitation confront poverty-stricken families in Tanauan, Leyte as they try to rebuild their lives from the destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). (Photo by JnGrey)

”We are still waiting for our transfer to safer land under the promised relocation program of the government”, said Mano Mario, one of the residents of Barangay San Roque which has 1,317 households presently building back their homes in what has been declared a ‘no build zone’ in this coastal municipality. Yolanda’s massive storm surges killed more than 50 residents in this area alone when it struck at the crack of dawn on 8 November 2013.

San Roque News, Leyte News, Eastern Visayas News
Numerous un-relocated residents build back their homes to be exposed again to danger in Tanauan, Leyte’s ‘no build zone’. (Photo by JnGrey)

Yolanda rehabilitation volunteer worker Mark, whose elderly mother was one of 90 recipients of relocation houses in Barangay Pago said that his mother is finding it difficult living in the relocation site. “The homes have no potable water and electricity and families manage with what little food they can afford at the moment”, he said.

“We are finding it hard to keep our children at school”, Rita, a mother of three concernedly disclosed to the Visayan Business Post news team in Leyte at her makeshift home a few meters from the beach. “Aside from safe shelter, our current priority now is food”, she said adding that they cannot earn enough money even for the P20 daily allowance for the fare each of her child needs to travel to the nearest school.

San Roque residents lament that the government relocation projects should have employed skilled workers like masons, carpenters and labourers in their barangay. However, they claim that government contractors have brought their own labour force from elsewhere. Most of the residents here have become unemployed because of Yolanda.

Palo News, Leyte News, Eastern Visayas News
Relocation homes being built by Gawad Kalinga await Yolanda victims in barangay Libertad, Palo, Leyte
In agricultural barangays, coconut farmers have also lost their means of economic sustenance with most of the region’s coconut trees floored by the storm. The local coconut industry is expected to recover from this blow within eight to twelve years at the earliest. Humanitarian organizations like InterSOS advise that majority of the farmers concerned would have to adopt a transformed way of living if they are to positively cope with the demands of the situation.

“About a third of the country relies on agriculture for survival. They have to get back on their feet as quickly as possible and rebuild their lives,” said Jose Luis Fernandez of the Food Aid Organization. FAO is currently assisting around 750,000 people involved in rice and corn farming, fisheries, coastal and forest rehabilitation and coconut farming in Eastern Visayas.

Albuera News, Leyte News, Eastern Visayas News
Subsistence fisherfolk of Balugo, Albuera, Leyte ready their nets for the sea

In coastal Albuera, sitio residents of Barangay Balugo have been able to rebuild their homes without government assistance. Their lone sari-sari store has now reopened. The local villagers have also returned to traditional fishing, their main source of income.

“In spirit our community may be slowly recovering but we are very much suffering from the stress of poverty”, said senior citizen Rosario Naire a local healer who survived the Super Typhoon with her blind husband. “We cannot hold other people responsible for our existence. Even if forgotten by the government, poor or not, we have to move on and rebuild our lives until the next calamity”, she ominously added.

Albuera News, Leyte News, Eastern Visayas News
Without waiting for government help, Balugo residents began rebuilding their homes, boats, and their lives and have come back to their basic source of income which is fishing