Five years ago today, one of the strongest storms ever recorded in the Philippines made landfall. Typhoon Haiyan took more than 6,000 lives on the island nation—destroying homes, bridges, schools, farms, and businesses in its wake. Red Cross teams started delivering aid in the immediate aftermath: helping save lives amongst the destruction.
Halfway around the globe, Americans responded to the tragedy by giving their money and time to help families in need. People generously donated more than $88 million to the American Red Cross (see a financial breakdown here), while others helped build digital maps of the disaster zone—enabling responders to find routes to deliver aid.
Initially, the Red Cross delivered relief in the form of food, water, medical care, and emergency shelter materials. Our teams launched a large cash-as-aid project that empowered families to make their own decisions about what items they needed most.
But disaster recovery is a marathon—not a sprint. For that reason, the American Red Cross has been working alongside the Philippines Red Cross to help communities build back stronger, healthier, and more resilient to future disasters. This includes constructing water systems and community evacuation centers, gifting seed money and business training to entrepreneurs, prepping communities for future disasters, and providing funds to help more than 14,000 families reconstruct or repair their homes.
Gratitude and Hope for the Future
“Without the Red Cross, my house would still be bamboo. This wall would still be made of sacs and tarps,” remarks Janeth Verzosa from Paglaum, a town on the island of Leyte. Janeth received corrugated metal sheets and funds to repair her home. She used the Red Cross funds to pay laborers and to purchase plywood, nails, tresses, cement to strengthen her foundation, and a latrine—which makes her safer and healthier. In addition to feeling more confident in her home next time a storm strikes, she’s also grateful for the work Red Cross is carrying out on a nearby canal: dredging and widening it. “I am comfortable knowing my family will be safe when it rains, instead of dealing with the flooding.”
In Aslum, a nearby village, Analisa Dolon stands proudly in front of a shelf of her soap products. Analisa and her neighbors were severely impacted by the super typhoon, but they are recovering with help from the American Red Cross. Analisa joined twenty of her neighbors to start this soap-making coop—where they produce laundry detergent, hand soap, toilet bowl cleaner, fabric softener, and shampoo. The Red Cross funded business training for the entrepreneurs, gave them seed money and supplies; and even built the structure that hosts their business. The members say they use the income for food and to reinvest in the business. When disasters hit, lower-income households are disproportionately affected. In the Philippines, the Red Cross is tackling poverty—and, in turn, promoting disaster resilience—head on, through livelihoods projects like this one.
Analisa—a mother of one—lost her home to Typhoon Haiyan, but she now lives in a studier, safer home, thanks to the Red Cross. She feels more confident in the face of storms these days, not just because of her home, but because of her business. “I remember after the storm, there was no soap. Everyone needed soap to stay clean and healthy, but none could be found. Now there is a lot of soap in this town,” she exclaims.
Not far away, Jesedel Maraya smiles in appreciation of donors’ impact on water and hygiene in his town. “Students are healthier now and attendance has risen,” exclaims Jesedel—a teacher at Peñalosa Elementary School. Red Cross staff train student leaders at the school to be advocates for health and hygiene. They, in turn, teach their fellow students about tooth brushing, hand washing, and germs in individual classes and then at an assembly. Thanks to the American Red Cross, the school has infrastructure in place to promote the hygiene lessons: a latrine and handwashing facility. The facilities serve more than 120 pupils and are available to community members during emergencies (since the school also serves as an evacuation center).
Disaster Relief is a Team Effort
When disasters strike, people around the world ask the same powerful question, “How can I help?” Thanks to the generous donors and supporters who pitched in after Typhoon Haiyan, families had the chance to survive and thrive after the tragedy. “If not for the Red Cross, we would not have a home,” said one resident, Myrna Cinco, with gratitude. And if not for the generous hearts of many, this work would not be possible.
A rich history—and future
The American Red Cross has a long and rich history of working with the Philippine Red Cross. In fact, the Philippine Red Cross was a chapter of the American Red Cross from 1905 until the country’s independence in 1946. When it became an independent Red Cross national society in 1947, we supported the young organization—turning over all Red Cross assets in the Philippines, sending technical advisors and providing funding to help it become firmly established. Since then, the American Red Cross has remained a loyal advocate and partner, sending financial and material resources, technical assistance and/or facilitating exchange visits on a regular basis. Even outside of Typhoon Haiyan recovery, the Philippines continues to be a focus of American Red Cross support.
Read more at redcross.org/Haiyan