On November 8, 2013, Super Typhoon Haiyan made landfall in the central Philippines. One of the largest typhoons ever recorded, the storm brought unimaginable levels of destruction to the island nation: USAID reported more than 6,200 dead and 16 million affected in its immediate aftermath. Haiyan displaced more than 4 million people and destroyed about 1.1 million houses.
Signs of slow progress—rebuilt homes and schools, restored livelihoods—endure in the Philippines, but there still remains much to be done.
The answer lies in consistency, especially from international supporters. By mid-April the Philippines had received around $800 million in global relief funds. Many have criticized the Philippine government for its inefficiency and unpreparedness, making these contributions and those from local and foreign NGOs especially vital to the recovery of millions of victims.
Fortunately, the aid has continued with significant programs being announced as recently as this week: On July 2, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs revealed its multi-million dollar plan to help improve land use and early warning technology in the Philippines. On a private and local level, several businesses have created social investment portfolios and other financial instruments to attract both internal and overseas funding for developmental projects.
Perhaps this speaks to the encouraging vitality seen in the Philippines before Haiyan, when many were predicting that the nation would become the next Asian Tiger economy. Those same people now wonder whether or not it can ever regain the momentum it once had, considering the extent of the damage incurred last fall. But we cannot settle for just bringing things back to the way they were. We must aim for a stronger, more resilient Philippines.
Eight months later, we have seen that relief efforts like KASAMA’s ultimately had a real impact on the recovery process. Still, enough questions linger for us to wonder if the Philippine's leaders will be more prepared for the future typhoons that will inevitably hit in the future. As they continue their attempts to rebuild the country around them, we encourage them to learn from the experience and seek to implement change where it is necessary.
With so much time having passed, the reduced spotlight could help alleviate some of the pressure that likely affected their ability to operate efficiently. By the same token, we would have expected the world's attention to have shifted away from the situation in the Philippines enough to slow down the support that has been so critical over these last eight months.
Instead, that so many groups have continued to find ways to contribute to the cause this far down the road speaks to encouraging levels of global compassion and awareness, much of which took root in the earliest days of the recovery process. KASAMA saw these qualities shine through on campus last fall—for that, the club would like to thank everyone again for their support. Remember, however, that the process continues to this day.