‘I carried my nephews through the surges the typhoon caused. I was a council worker, but I found myself up to my neck in water, with two boys raised above my head to keep them safe.’
Kenneth Renera was one of the estimated 11 million people caught in and affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines on November 8-9 2013.
Today, thanks in part to RedR UK, he is one of millions of Philippines nationals working to ensure he, his community, and his country recover, and are better protected in future.
Typhoon Haiyan , the fourth most intense ever recorded, wreaked havoc and destruction across the Philippines’ central islands. It killed more than 7,400 people, and injured more than 20,000. And its 195mph winds affected many more: Haiyan destroyed and damaged one million homes, leaving four million people homeless. It damaged water supply systems, contaminating drinking and sanitation water-storage systems with flood water.
The UN estimates that 11 million people were affected by the disaster – with 4.5 million left with no access to clean water and sanitation systems.
Kenneth said: ‘More than 50 per cent of homes in some parts of this region were destroyed, and many people are still living in temporary accommodation. My own house was swamped by floodwaters, and the oil refinery close to my home was damaged, which meant oil spilled into the water I waded through.’
Kenneth lives in Santo Nino near the town of Palo, on the eastern side of Leyte island. Before the typhoon, he was a member of Santo Nino’s council.
Inspired by the disaster, and using training developed and delivered by RedR in Disaster Risk Reduction and Shelter, he is now using his extensive local knowledge to mobilise people in his and neighbouring communities, to join the Build Back Safer scheme.
He said: ‘The Build Back Safer training is excellent. It means I can help people not just to rebuild their homes, but to make them stronger.’
RedR UK, and our partners RedR India and RedR Australia, arrived in the Philippines on 21 January and remained in-country until 26 April. We delivered 29 courses in Tacloban, Estancia, Ormoc and Manila, focusing on Humanitarian Essentials – basic training in aid work for workers and volunteers new to the aid sector – Project management, to help managers run their programmes most effectively, Shelter, and WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene), and disaster risk reduction.
In total, we used our expertise to train 577 people, 98 per cent of whom were Philippine nationals, working for international NGOs such as Save the Children and Oxfam, national organisations and government bodies.
We also created training for UNICEF, in partnership with Relief International, and ran sessions for clusters – the groups set up to enable all relief and aid groups to exchange information and skills.
This has ensured those people affected by the typhoon have the skills and abilities to rebuild their homes and their lives, and made sure that knowledge remains in the Philippines, to be used to mitigate against, and respond to, the next disaster.
Vikas Goyal, our Philippines’ response team leader, explained: ‘There are a large number of international and local organisations, and government bodies, ready to deliver the aid in water and sanitation, shelter and disaster risk reduction that the Philippines needs. And many people have volunteered to help their communities and others recover. But many of them are either new to the humanitarian sector, or have not worked in this kind of an emergency before. We provided those people with the expertise and skills they needed to help their country recover from the devastation of Haiyan.'
We designed Build Back Safer training for Oxfam and its Philippines-based partner Green Mindanao, after the communities around Palo requested skills-based sessions.
The course has trained Philippines nationals how to build more resilient housing and community buildings – and to train them to pass those skills on to others. It was attended by 16 people, who will now train 3,000-5,000 households to reconstruct their homes to help them stand up better to future disasters.
Kenneth said: ‘It has enabled me to give ideas to the people in how to build back better.’
RedR UK’s members – engineers who have completed RedR training – were also at work on the ground in the Philippines, using their skills to deliver emergency aid, and help train Filipinos in disaster risk reduction.
One RedR UK member, Marco Vissier, the owner of the consultancy WASH for Life, led the Action Contre la Faim WASH response in the Visayas region.
He said: ‘The situation was very serious here. The Typhoon affected more than 2.7m people. ‘In the early days, the needs were immediate: people had nowhere to live, and no access to water. As time went on, we worked very hard to repair water systems. The water supply has been very seriously disrupted. And water is essential, for life and health. Lives have been on hold while people did the work that was necessary to enable recovery.’
RedR UK’s CEO Martin McCann said: ‘It is excellent to be able to look at the Philippines and know that skills training delivered by us has helped save lives in the republic now, and through disaster mitigation techniques and training, will help save lives in the future. Knowledge-sharing of this kind is vital around the world, and we at RedR UK would like to thank everyone who donated to enable us to provide training to the Philippines which is helping its people recover and strengthen for the future.’
RedR UK, in partnership with RedR India and RedR Australia, is now on the ground, providing humanitarian aid training to make sure people across the South-East Asian state are receiving the vital assistance they most need.
Vikas Goyal, RedR’s Philippines response Team Leader, explained: ‘There is a very great need for emergency assistance in the Philippines. And there are a large number of international and local organisations ready to make sure they deliver that aid.
‘But many of the staff on the ground are either inexperienced in the humanitarian sector, or have not worked in this kind of emergency before. We are here to give them the skills they need.’
Typhoon Haiyan is estimated to have killed 7,400 people, and injured more than 20,000. The destruction it wreaked threatens many more lives.
Vikas, 40, a former Global Water and Sanitation (WASH) Advisor for Oxfam GB, said: ‘The work being done here is vital because it is the way many people can survive the ongoing crisis.
‘There are very many people without homes or reliable access to clean water.
‘The Typhoon destroyed water systems and flooding contaminated drinking water with sea-water and with other contaminants.
‘The International Red Cross responded very quickly to ensure people had access to emergency supplies, but longer-term provision remains a priority, while housing and shelter is also an urgent need.’
Haiyan’s 195mph winds destroyed and damaged more than one million homes, leaving four million people homeless.
UN investigations have concluded 11m people have been affected by the disaster, with 4.5m left without clean water and sanitation systems.
Vikas, who arrived in the Philippines on January 6th, and led the team through its first weeks of setting up and providing training, said: ‘There are three very popular trainings that we are being booked to provide. First, is Humanitarian Principles and Practice. Because most staff are new to the sector, we are training them to know more about the ideas behind humanitarian responses, how they work and why.
‘We’re also being asked to provide training in Disaster Risk Reduction, mainly for Shelter programmes. Shelter is never easy anywhere, and here there are combinations of problems, from finding space in urban areas to new builds in rural regions. Our courses here are helping people to understand those challenges, and how to overcome them.
‘Finally, WASH is in great demand. In the Philippines, most of what is being requested is not training in technical areas, but community-led projects. These projects are meeting sanitation and drinking water needs on emergency time-frames and then extending that to long-term community-led sanitation projects into the future.’
RedR has completed its assessment of training needs across the Philippines, in Tacloban, Cebu, Panay, Leyte and Samar, and has already provided training to Save the Children staff, and the Tacloban Shelter Cluster.
In total a further 23 courses have been booked already by international and national NGOs, with 30 more under negotiation. We aim to deliver 100 training courses by June 2014, including ‘open’ courses – which staff from all local and international ngos, and government departments can attend.
Vikas said: ‘There is a clear need, because this is a serious emergency situation, and the positive fact is that there are many people who want to help. We are providing the skills to make that possible.’
And one innovation has already arisen, with the potential to help many thousands of people in the disaster-struck state.
Vikas explained: ‘We discovered that many of the organisations engaged in providing emergency shelter needed help in the types of building designs needed to ensure continued safety for people here.
‘Reconstruction is not yet happening here, and it’s a huge issue. There are so many damaged buildings, schools, hospitals and homes. And we have to ask: if a new cyclone struck tomorrow, would people be more or less at risk after what we have done?
‘In this area, we are offering technical training and advice: We are sharing our knowledge to help ensure the future is safer, and buildings are more resilient.’
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