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Post-typhoon Haiyan: Housing and Water Problems in Resettlement Areas

Written by Jan Robert R. Go.

Two years and ten months since typhoon Yolanda, the effects on the lives of the survivors are still felt. Families are still in search of stable livelihood and decent resettlement. The government has not yet addressed the major concerns of the survivors and their families. Problems on land for relocation, clean water, and drainage and sewer systems, among others, remain. With a new administration, there is a new hope that these concerns will be given attention and eventually resolved.

On 8 September 2016, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD) and Oxfam Philippines held a press conference ‘Resettling Communities, Unsettling Realities,’ which focused on the alarming situation of resettlement in Tacloban City, a typhoon Haiyan-affect area. The panel of guests includes representatives from the Council of Yolanda Survivors Association of Tacloban (CYSAT), Philippine Network of Rural Development Institutes (PhilNet-RDI), Tacloban City Community Affairs Office, PLCPD, and Oxfam. In the press conference, two major concerns were highlighted by the panellists: (1) the quality of housing facility provided by the National Housing Authority (NHA), and (2) the demand for safe and clean water for the communities.

On Housing

The National Housing Authority is the lead agency of the government tasked to address the housing problem in the country. In 2010, there was an estimated backlog of 3.7 million houses in the country. This year, it has been projected to reach 5.5 million. This is partly attributed to the damage brought by typhoon Yolanda. According to the city community affairs officer, 889 families in Tacloban have been permanently resettled, while 2040 more are waiting. Despite this development, those who have been permanently resettled are facing their own problems in their areas.

Flooding remains to be a concern for the resettled families. Based on the narration of the CYSAT representative, during strong rains, floodwater enters their houses through their toilets, sinks, doors, and even walls. Indeed, it was a consistent sentiment during the press conference that the quality of the houses was low. The walls and ceilings have disintegrated little by little. There are cracks and holes that create openings, along these floodwaters to enter their houses. Likewise, the resettled families are complaining about the faulty drainage and sewer systems that were put in place.

The people are asking the NHA to ensure that the materials used in the construction of their houses are of quality. They contend that the design of the current houses was different from those approved. Thus, they also have problems with the drainage and sewer systems, among many others. They appeal that work is fast-tracked. Any unnecessary delays would make them further vulnerable.

On Clean Water

Another area of concern is safe and clean water. According to the World Health Organisation, in an emergency situation, 15 litres of water per capita per day (l/c/d) is the minimum requirement. If basic food and physical hygiene are included, 20l/c/d is desired. Prior to typhoon Haiyan, families had access to water 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, they have no stable source of water.

The local government unit of Tacloban City provides water via tankers, but this is not enough and it is costly. On the average, a family needs 15-20 jugs of water per day, with approximately 15 litres per jug. This estimate already includes water needs for food and drinking, basic hygiene, laundry, and bathing. Each jug of water costs three pesos. Each family would then have to spend 45-60 pesos a day (1-1.33 USD) for safe and clean water. Without a stable source of income, spending approximately 420 pesos per week or 1680 pesos per month for water is already an expensive undertaking.

The absence of access to water also has repercussions on other areas such as hygiene and sanitation, nutrition and health, education, and even family relations. Given an expensive water supply, children may not be able to eat and drink enough. Money spent for food and education are cut down and now used to buy water. Skin and other water-borne diseases spread since taking a bath are no longer done regularly or unsafe and dirty water is used. Mothers are no longer able to clean their houses regularly and finish their chores, causing arguments with their husbands.

Moving Forward

What were presented are just two of the many concerns of the typhoon Haiyan survivors. Livelihood, transportation, infrastructure, basic services, and security of tenure remain to be issues that are continuously raised by the survivors and their families. While the 2017 deadline is fast approaching, only 30% of the plan has been implemented. For their part, Tacloban City intends to create a new township with their Tacloban North Development Plan. Various government agencies have started a technical working group to look into the other aspects of rehabilitation and resettlement.

A bill is now pending in the Philippine Congress calling for a national framework for disaster management, which will serve as a basis for housing and human resettlement efforts in the future. While this is still in process, the survivors are asking the Duterte administration to also prioritise and give attention to the victims of disasters. Apart from exacting accountability, the survivors hope that the new administration can swiftly act on their concerns.

Jan Robert R. Go is Assistant Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman. He is Primary Investigator of the ESRC/DFID funded project ‘Poverty Alleviation in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda’. You can follow this project on Facebook as Project_Yolanda and Twitter @Project_Yolanda. Image credit: CC by DFID/Flickr.

Published inAsiaAsia and PacificPhilippinesProject Yolanda

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