Growing up in the Philippines, Canadian Forces Major Jay Manimtim knows firsthand what foreign aid can do for the people of his homeland.
The 34-year old Filipino – Canadian who is from Rosario Cavite, was during his childhood years a beneficiary of a medical mission that gave typhoid fever immunizations to impoverished residents in his town.
So when he got the call to be part of the Canadian Forces’ Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to the Typhoon Haiyan relief operations there was no hesitation.
“I didn’t even have to think about it. I immediately said yes,” Manimtim said in a interview wth Rappler, cutting short his allocated 8-month parental leave to spend Christmas away from his iwfe and new born son Jacob.
Manimtim was born and raised in Rosario, Cavite and migrated to Canada when he was 16 years old.
“I felt really compelled to help, being born and raised here in the Philippines. I felt a deep connection,” said Manimtim.
Manimtim is one of the Filipino-Canadians on the DART who are on mission to the Philippines as liaison officers (LOs). As LOs, they will be assigned to live within a certain community and work closely with civilian local authorities to better understand the needs of the remote communities in terms of humanitarian aid.
“It’s our job (as liaison officers) to liaise with local leaders, NGOs, and international organizations to relieve the affected population.” It is being a Filipino-Canadian that puts Manimtim and other members of the LO in the best place to do this.
“I know what it likes to be Filipino. This is my culture, this is my heritage. I know how Filipinos think. I know the intricacies of the language, the intricacies of how Filipinos think. It is my pleasure to be here [to help],” he said.
The Canadian soldiers and volunteers are part of a massive recovery effort to help the millions of victims of Typhoon Haiyan which struck the central Philippines a month ago.
The deatol toll by the typhoon is estimated to be over 7,000 and caused significant loss of life, a large number of injuries, as well as destruction of property, leaving millions of people requiring humanitarian support.
Shelter for displaced people is now fast emerging as a key priority after more than one million homes were damaged or destroyed by winds of Typhoon Haiyan of 235 km/h and gusts of 275 km/h, the storm, locally known as Yolanda, was among the strongest storms ever recorded.
More than five million typhoon survivors are in need of immediate shelter assistance since the typhoon made landfall on the morning of 8 November in the town of Guiuan in Eastern Samar Province, leaving behind a path of destruction across nine provinces.
“I don’t know how we will rebuild. We’ve lost everything,” Elsa Raganas, 43, a single mother of four, told IRIN outside the ruins of her home in the coastal town of Palo in Leyte Province, where over 15,000 houses were destroyed. Most rural homes are constructed of lightweight wood and tin sheeting, making them highly susceptible to wind, though many stone and concrete structures in towns and cities, like Elsa’s, were also levelled.
According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), over 14 million people were affected, more than 4 million were displaced, and over 5,700 lost their lives.
More than 94,000 survivors are living in 385 overcrowded evacuation centres, often in dire conditions, while the rest are staying with family and friends, the NDRRMC reported on 6 December.
Others are still living outdoors under makeshift shelters they have built themselves, using plastic sheeting, plywood and material from the remains of their homes. “We don’t have any choice,” said Alberta Hijanda, 55, who lives just down the street from Elsa and sleeps with 12 other family members under a single tarpaulin to protect themselves from the weather. “We desperately need help.”
Of the more than one million homes affected; 515,179 were totally destroyed and 551,546 were partially damaged, said a recently released Multi-Cluster/Sector Rapid Assessment (MIRA), a cooperative survey involving more than 40 agencies across the affected area, including 92 municipalities.
People urgently need support to repair or reconstruct their houses, or build makeshift shelter on their plot of land, which they also need to clear of debris and rubble, the assessment noted.
In Samar, Northern Leyte, Northern Cebu, Northern Panay and Coron, more than 85 percent of houses were affected - between 55 and 67 percent of households experienced total destruction of their houses, while an additional 25 to 36 percent were partially damaged.
“Without doubt, shelter must be the number-one priority now,” Leopoldo Dominque Petilla, the governor of Leyte Province, told IRIN. In his province alone, more than 170,000 homes, where over 1.9 million people lived, were damaged or destroyed.
Addressing the need for shelter will prove a monumental task, not just for the government, but also for the international community working to assist people in need of help. “Shelter will ultimately be the biggest challenge,” Anna Pont, shelter cluster coordinator for the Philippines, who is co-ordinating some 40 local and international agencies, told IRIN in Manila.
Provisionally, the government has requested international shelter assistance for 500,000 families, with an emphasis on people whose homes were totally destroyed. The rest would be covered by the government, local civil society, church groups, and self-recovery methods.
Plans at the provincial level suggest the government will provide some kind of financial assistance of between 5,000 pesos (about $114) and 10,000 pesos (about $228) per household for those who can rebuild on their plots of land, and between 70,000 (about $1,600) and 90,000 pesos (about $2,050) for those in “No-build” areas, who will have to relocate.
Many affected families are already moving towards self-recovery in re-establishing their homes, but many others are still in urgent need of emergency shelter assistance, Pont said.
To date, cluster partners have delivered emergency shelter assistance (mainly tarpaulins and some fixings) to 46,000 households, with a further 110,000 to be assisted in the coming weeks.
Under the current Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan, various recovery interventions are being proposed to address the needs of 500,000 households, including the supply of materials for roofing and framing, salvaging wood and debris for re-use, labour, training in safer building practices, technical assistance, and cash provision solutions.
“The focus now needs to be on recovery and supporting people’s own initiatives,” Pont said. “We’re looking at maximizing salvaging what is possible... and then providing... material... so they have a decent roof over their heads, along with some technical assistance on how to build… [more safely],” Pont said.
Under the $348 million Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan, which aims to cover the immediate humanitarian needs for the first six-month period, agencies are seeking $46 million for emergency shelter, of which just 37 percent has been pledged.
Shelter agencies are predicting a severe shortfall in roofing and framing materials unless donors quickly provide the necessary funding and material support. However, an updated humanitarian response plan to cover the next year is expected soon and looks set to make those amounts significantly higher.
The Canadian Task Force Philippines
The CAF task force currently includes more than 315 CAF members with a range of specialties:
engineering to assist in clearing debris, opening roads, re-establish electricity, remediating washouts and assessing structures such as bridges;
water purification to produce clean drinking water;
mobile medical teams that travel to evacuation centres to treat injuries and identify potential sites for assistance;
helicopter pilots and crew to extend the reach of personnel to isolated areas and provide reconnaissance and assistance as required;
air transport and maintenance crews;
logistics to support the delivery of humanitarian supplies and the daily operations of Task Force Philippines; and
liaison officers (CAF personnel of Filipino descent) who act as vital links between local authorities, international aid agencies and CAF members.
Alert: Effects on the ground
Task Force Philippines has:
approximately 204,781 litres of purified water available for distribution;
treated nearly 4,182 medical patients;
delivered approximately 81,255 pounds of food and 7, 000 pounds of shelter and building materials on behalf of non-governmental organizations;
delivered approximately 33,500 pounds of humanitarian assistance goods on behalf of local authorities;
cleared 121 km of roads; and
conducted 114 CH-146 Griffon sorties.