Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan, considered the world’s deadliest typhoon and one of the most powerful to ever make landfall, tore through the Philippines on the morning of 8 November 2013 with winds of up to 275km an hour.

ACT established a coordination centre in Manila, and initiated a massive combined response that has topped US$10m. Haiyan cut a devastating path across nine provinces, leaving behind millions of tons of debris. More than 16 million people were affected and 4 million displaced. More than half a million houses were destroyed and another 590,000 houses were badly damaged. And the typhoon’s ferocity left schools, clinics and businesses unable to operate. At least 6,245 people were killed by the typhoon, 28,000 were injured and 1,000 people were still missing at the end of 2013. The United Nations humanitarian coordinator launched a Flash Appeal.

ACT registered nine projects, all of which were approved and included in the appeal. The preparedness of the ACT Forum in the Philippines, and its commitment to effective and immediate response, enabled prompt action. To assist the humanitarian effort, a three-person team was deployed to the Philippines from the ACT Rapid Support Team roster.

An ACT Coordination Centre was set up on the premises of an ACT member in Manila. Humanitarian coordinators worked with members already on the ground to start immediate evaluations in the hardest-hit areas of Tacloban and Leyte.

A psychosocial expert began group work with local communities, developing materials in local languages. The Rapid Support Team was complemented by a professional communicator from the ACT secretariat, who documented the devastation and helped develop the communication resources needed for the fundraising campaigns of ACT members across the world.

Recovery is long-term and will depend on restoring the livelihoods of the 5.9 million people estimated to have lost them. Both crops and produce, and the ability to produce them, were wiped out.

At village level, some 30,000 fishermen lost their boats and nets, causing hardship for the coastal communities, who were some of the hardest hit. Rebuilding their livelihoods depends on building new boats, which is a relatively quick process. Many other recovery processes will take longer. Millions of coconut trees were blown down. It takes five to seven years for new coconut trees to bear fruit, so the many families and communities that rely on coconut farming as a substantial part of their livelihoods now need alternative incomes for up to seven years.

It is expected that farmers of crops such as rice and sugar, which can be harvested more quickly, will recover faster. However, the infrastructure to process these crops has also been damaged and in some cases destroyed.

Estimates for the total cost of reconstruction exceed US$5bn, and the complexity of the reconstruction is said to be unparalleled. From the onset of the typhoon, our members in the Philippines gave life-saving support – food and shelter, and water and sanitation – to the most vulnerable and resource-poor people and began planning effective interventions for restoring livelihoods. Psychosocial support was also recognised as crucial for the recovery of communities, and our members have worked on providing it in some of the most traumatised areas.

ACT is active in 17 provinces and 73 municipalities, reaching 208,600 people and an additional 4,433 households. As recovery and rebuilding moves along, everyone is aware that risks from extreme weather are increasing. “We know that Haiyan won’t be the last typhoon,” said Sylwyn Sheen Alba, who is working on the ACT response. “We hadn’t finished recovering from Typhoon Bopha when Haiyan hit. We need to understand this is a pattern and prepare ourselves.”

A large delegation of ACT organisations took part in the UN climate talks in Warsaw where Yeb Saño, chief climate negotiator for the Philippines, made an impassioned speech directly after the typhoon.

Linking extreme climate events such as Haiyan to climate change, he committed to standing with victims of Haiyan, and put pressure on negotiators to “stop the climate madness” by voluntarily fasting. Thousands of people stood in solidarity with Yeb Saño by fasting, including many staff and supporters of ACT Alliance organisations.