New UN programme aims to resuscitate economy in typhoon-hit Philippines

25 November 2013

As part of its relief response to the massive devastation in the Philippines from Typhoon Haiyan, the United Nations has launched a cash-for-work programme that will eventually employ 200,000 villagers over the next six months.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) project aims not only to clear up rubble from Haiyan, which killed over 5,230 people, left more than 1,600 still missing, and affected over 13 million others, nearly 3.5 of them million homeless, but also to resuscitate the local economy by injecting money into it.

Over the weekend, the first batch of 180 men and women started removing rubble and medical waste in two hospitals, two schools, and streets in three severely damaged neighbourhoods in Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities, and in Palo, receiving basic equipment and tools such as generators, shovels, and wheelbarrows to begin the early recovery process.

“The debris removal is an important part of the relief operation as streets without rubble are a precondition for aid distribution,” Haoliang Xu, UNDP’s Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific said during a visit to Tacloban.

“In addition to contributing to the humanitarian effort, the debris removal is also a critical component of economic recovery. We’re going to create 200,000 temporary jobs in debris removal in the most affected municipalities over the next six months.”

In an update on the disaster, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today that life-saving assistance is still urgently required, particularly food, water and shelter. Affected communities have access to small food stocks, but are increasingly concerned about the lack of food in the long term, with limited or no access to markets, it said.

Communities are in need of better shelter, nutrition and clean water to prevent a further spread of acute respiratory infections in the coming months, it added. As foreign medical teams which have focused on trauma injuries begin to leave the country, gaps will occur for basic health care, it warned, with operational health facilities already reportedly overstretched.

Benefits from the UNDP programme include the clearing of roads to allow easier access for humanitarian aid to reach isolated communities; providing income to 200,000 households; injecting needed cash into the local economy; and reducing the risk of disease.

The debris removal and waste management are part of a $20-million early recovery plan, which has at its core the building of resilience of these communities. The plan will help rehabilitate local businesses, restore community infrastructure such as access roads and town halls, and contribute to restarting the provision of services by local governments.

“While meeting the immediate needs of the families who lost everything is of utmost importance right now, we must also work with communities to recover their lives and livelihoods, and build in resilience to withstand future super storms,” Haoliang Xu said. “It is not just a matter of building back better, it is also a matter of building back sustainably.”

Funding for the plan has so far come from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), UNDP and Japan.

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