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Typhoon Haiyan: Inspiring recovery, lasting damage

31 Mar 2014

Recovery from Typhoon Haiyan is far from over. 76-year-old Rosario’s rice, which was grown with some assistance from fertiliser provided by HelpAge-COSE, is already being harvested, but her home still lies in ruins. (c) Carolyn Canham/HelpAge InternationalFlying across the island of Leyte in the Visayas region of the Philippines, you cross vivid green patchworks of rice fields nestled between hills covered by ravaged coconut trees. The damage to the trees is clearly visible from the air. 

This is the sight that greets you as you approach Tacloban – one of the areas most devastated by Typhoon Haiyan (known in the Philippines as Yolanda). The revival of the rice farming here has been made possible by the relief support provided so far, but long-term support is needed to rebuild the coconut industry and help communities establish diverse crops and more resilient livelihoods in the meantime.

Stories of survival and loss

The contrast between the glorious rice fields and the sad trees is mirrored within the communities affected by Haiyan. The older people who survived the disaster share countless inspiring stories of survival and recovery, and countless stories of lasting devastation and loss.

For example, 76-year-old Lilia is working tirelessly – despite her grief – to rebuild the home she shared with a daughter and grandson who died during the typhoon. Like many of Haiyan's victims, their bodies – covered in rubble – were not found for over a month, despite remaining close to home.

Leonila, 69, is distraught as she speaks about the destruction of the coconut trees that were her livelihood, yet glows with well-deserved pride as she shows us the vegetables she is growing among the ruins.

76-year-old Rosario's rice, which was grown with some assistance from fertiliser provided by HelpAge International and its local partner, the Coalition of Services of the Elderly (COSE), is already being harvested, but her home still lies in ruins.

Desire for independence and self-sufficiency

Alpunso, proud and strong at 72, is a carpenter who lost all his equipment in the storm; he wants badly to replace it so he can return to work to support his family.

This desire for independence and self-sufficiency is a reoccurring theme among the older people affected by Haiyan. No one wants to be dependent, or a burden. In fact, many have been supporting others in the recovery.

But older people do still need help. Help to rebuild homes, livelihoods and lives. The immediate emergency relief phase is winding down, but rebuilding the communities has just begun.

Find out more about our work to support older people and their families affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.

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Carolyn Canham
Job title: Communications Manager, Philippines

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.