More than two months after Typhoon Bopha hit the eastern coast of Mindanao Province in the southern Philippines some 198,000 families are still trying to repair their homes, even in the midst of daily monsoon rains.
“There is a sense that natural disasters hit, and that’s it,” said Tom Bamforth, the coordinator of aid groups working on housing after Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Pablo, struck on 4 December, displacing close to one million residents. “But the problem is,” Bamforth continued, “it has been two months of constant rains. This is still an ongoing disaster.”
Entire small towns, known locally as `barangays’, were submerged following flooding on 19 January which affected almost 40,000 people in Davao city (the country’s second largest) as well as the provinces of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley, which were both affected earlier by the Category 5 typhoon (winds that reach 250km/hour).
“We have never had something like this in our lifetimes,” said Sustenio Sulag, the elected leader of Panansalan in Compostela Valley, 150km north of Davao city. All 215 family homes were partially or completely destroyed by the typhoon in December.
Typhoon Bopha/Pablo was the sixteenth to hit the archipelago in 2012, but the deadliest worldwide that year, claiming, thus far, close to 1,100 lives.
Emergency housing kits - valued at some US$1,000 each and donated by the UK-based NGO Shelter Box, and containing emergency tents, blankets and basic tools - lie unopened in front of a number of homes. “We don’t need those. Residents need something sturdier to get us through the rains,” said Sulag.
Local government officials sent 160 of the 215 requested corrugated iron sheets to repair roofing, but Sulag said he did not want to distribute them until there was at least one sheet per family, to prevent accusations of preferential treatment.
Meanwhile, residents were patching together rooftops from fallen coconut timber, and blue tarpaulins (donated). Aid groups and the government estimate 95 percent of families recovering from the typhoon continue living in the remains of their houses.
“What we are seeing is people building back worse with salvaged materials,” said Bamforth.