Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tindog Tacloban

I arrived in Tacloban on Friday. For the first time in my life I travelled by helicopter, a free service provided by UNHAS, the UN Humanitarian Air Service. And it wasn't a dull beige or white like the UNHAS planes normally are, it was fancy and red.
We hovered for quite some time, just off the ground, and so I entertained myself by reading the safety card. I interpret this as "in case of emergency, casually saunter from the aircraft looking uber cool"
Light heartedness aside, as we flew closer to Tacloban, the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan became quite evident. 33 million coconut trees were destroyed by the storm. From the air I could see trees that had been uprooted, and flung horizontally into the ground. Then there was this:

There wasn't a car available to pick me up at that time, so I jumped into a moto trike and was shocked and impressed at what I saw on the way. The damage is overwhelming. I've never seen the aftermath of a bombing in person, (wait a minute, yes I have) but it's what I imagine Tacloban, and other affected areas of the Philippines most closely resemble. But the other incredible sight to see, was the amount of work that's already been done.
The trip to the hotel we're using as an office wouldn't have been more than 20 minutes, and the road was clear the entire way. Debris is piled up around everywhere, but the road has been completely cleared.
On Monday I headed south to two municipalities we had helped the local authorities to organise coordination meetings in. It was a sobering journey, to see kilometre after kilometre of mangled shells of factories, of small remnants of concrete houses, and vacant spaces where other homes used to be.
There were stretches of road where I could see where the storm surge had rushed in. Vacant lots covered in silt, people and homes just washed away in a matter of moments. The media has not over sold this crisis, it's absolutely devastating.

The organisation I work for has already done a lot of fantastic work. I'm here in Tacloban to help kickstart three areas of work, which unfortunately have no staff recruited for yet, but are really important elements to complement the water, sanitation and hygiene promotion activities, and the food security and livelihoods work that we do. It's a new role for me, with added responsibilities, so it's already been extremely interesting, engaging and challenging, and I'm looking forward to seeing the areas progress.

Even though there is a lot of work to be done, the people of Tacloban, of Palo, Tanauan, Macarthur, Mayorga and all of the other municipalities that have been affected, are absolutely inspiring in their resolve to pick up the pieces and rebuild their communities and lives. "Tindog" means "rise up" in the local dialect of Waray and that spirit is evident everywhere you go. We throw the word 'resilience' around a lot in humanitarian work, but the Philippines has it in abundance.

As we drove I noticed a lot of hand made cardboard signs saying 'we need water' and the words "help" or "SOS" spray painted on roads. And I also noticed twice as many hand made signs that said things like "Thank you to the world for helping us" and "Thank you for being here." There has been overwhelming support financially for our work here in the immediate aftermath, I just hope that the world won't forget about the Philippines in a few months.

1 comment:

  1. Please keep blogging about your work here Carly. It's interesting and will definitely help keep the Philippines in our minds.