Give aid directly to Yolanda survivors, foreign agencies urged

Dec. 19, 2013


Davao Today

DAVAO CITY –  Give directly to Yolanda survivors, or to NGOs directly helping them.

This was the advice of disaster response group Balsa Mindanao to international donors for rehabilitation efforts in Yolanda (Haiyan)-hit Eastern Visayas, following statements from government’s ‘rehabilitation czar’ Panfilo Lacson that corruption is happening on rehabilitation funds among local officials.

Balsa Mindanao Director Francis Morales told Davao Today that foreign agencies would see concrete gains if they coordinate directly with community groups or credible non-government organizations (NGOs) working directly with affected areas.

“Corruption is deeply rooted in our government. We urge all to channel their donations through credible and legitmate NGOs and people’s organizations, those that channel services via engaging in people-to-people relationship,” Morales said.

Foreign aid for post-Yolanda rehabilitation has reached around 21-billion US dollars coming from 44 countries.  But Morales said agencies must look at the experiences of survivors hit by Typhoons Sendong (Washi) and Pablo (Bopha) in Mindanao where failure of delivering rehabilitation and relocation have been reported.

Morales said that even with Lacson appointed as government’s rehabilitation czar, “politics and ineptness” by the Aquino government would still creep in.

Morales said “We would be keeping an eye on Lacson and on the rehabilitation budget.”

One of Balsa’s network, Survivors of Sendong (SOS) said that two years later, government has instead “held in abeyance” its housing relocation program for survivors reportedly for a “mortgage program under the National Housing Authority (NHA).”

Iko Pagayaman of SOS said most of the 6,000 housing units were built by NGOs and religious and none came from government agencies.

Pagayaman said 80% of relocation sites have no access to water or electricity, and are far from their places of livelihood, including Barangays Macasandig and Lumbia.

“We are only remembered, used by the government and traditional politicians for publicity reason in commemoration such as this, but in between, they are nowhere to be found,” Pagayaman said.

Morales said what government lacks is a disaster response and rehabilitation that is “comprehensive and based on the communities’ comprehensive development.”

He advised agencies to coordinate with organizations working closely on the ground addressing the specific needs of survivors.

Morales said they will also tap groups engaged in sustainable agriculture.

“We will organize and train communities on sustainable agriculture.  We still have to coordinate with our networks and organizations in Leyte who know better which areas we are going to serve,” said Morales.

Morales added that help has come mostly from organizations and people especially from the less privileged.

“Many Mindanaoans have roots in the Visayas. In the past disasters, it was the people of Visayas who helped us, and now it is our turn to do the same,” Morales said.

Meanwhile, two other organizations are also contributing to specific aspects of post-Yolanda rehabilitation and are in need of resources.

The Habitat for Humanity has targeted to build 50,000 core houses and give out 50,000 cleaning kits for Yolanda survivors.

Dolly Santos-Serranillo, resource manager of Habitat Davao and Caraga regions, said this is “a herculean task.”

“More than one million houses have been totally damaged and more than 500 thousand shelters have been partially damaged. What Habitat does right now is to help in the repair and rebuilding of these houses which will entail lots of hard work and funds. That is why we do intense fundraising campaign here and abroad to expedite rebuilding of shelters.”

She said that “(S)helter is one of the three basic needs of humanity aside from food and clothing,” as she raised concern that with homelessness women and children become vulnerable to abuse and crimes.

Habitat will be working with Biosand Filters (BSF) Philippines to provide six water stations initially in Ormoc, Leyte that will provide potable and cooking water for 1,000 people for each station.

BSF Philippines Administrative Assistant Melanie Leduna said their technology devised filters to make dirty water clear, and would not cost in electricity or maintenance for its duration of 30 years.

“We would be blessed to assist even only less than 10% of the currently displaced people. The people need all the assistance from all relief agencies. Working together is the key,” Leduna said. (Tyrone A. Velez/

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