What needs to happen now? | Interview with Sanny Jegillos

18 Dec 2013

cash-for-work beneficiary A UNDP cash-for-work crew clears debris from Tacloban's Barangay (village) 88. UNDP operates cash-for-work projects focused on removing debris and restoring livelihoods. These employment schemes bridge the transition between the humanitarian phase and reconstruction. (Photo: OCHA/Jose Reyna)

Q: What needs to happen now in the areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)?

 We have to keep in mind that humanitarian needs persist, even as recovery efforts proceed in many locations. To get lives back on track, the means of livelihoods and family incomes must be restored, houses rebuilt, local infrastructure fixed. So, shelter and livelihoods remain a significant priority for the humanitarian community to get people back on their feet.

Challenges over the coming months will involve reopening damaged schools and public buildings, and restoring services. Farmers will need seeds and other support in order to replant rice crops before the rains begin. There is much work to be done and the road to recovery will also need to be a road to building resilience.

Q: Can you give me examples of resilience measures?

Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction start at understanding the nature of the hazards that pose danger and the shocks that affect the recovery of the affected population.

It is important that UNDP supports risk assessments that can provide evidence on building codes, on safe locations of important and critical infrastructure, and on government policy, such as “No Build Zones”.

While risk assessments are valuable tools, they should not be regarded as a stand-alone strategy. To be effective, they should be incorporated into long-term development plans of local governments and other sectors supporting the affected population. What we aim to see are risk assessments incorporated into development planning, so that development gains are protected from future extreme weather events.

This could mean building schools on higher ground and using them as multi-purpose community centers during a disaster. It could mean including disaster preparedness into school curriculums so children know where to go in emergencies.

Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events are all examples of disaster risk reduction.

Q: Do you think private sector and civil society has a role to play in recovery?

Recovery after such an enormous disaster requires the support of many groups – local communities, the government, local authorities, the international community, and of course the private sector.

Our foremost task is to ensure an immediate kick-start of recovery – one that would ultimately lead to the stabilization of livelihood and economy, two areas that absolutely need the expertise of the private sector and involvement of civil society.

The restoration of livelihood is a multifaceted issue marked by a market-driven economy, one that is run by the private sector and, which operates on a normal flow of supply and demand. As we work towards normalcy in the affected communities, we hope to see banks, telecommunication companies, electricity providers, and businesses resume their operations in the soonest possible time. It is of utmost importance that the private sector and the civil society work hand-in-hand in the restoration of the supply chain, the public markets, and the micro, small and medium enterprises.

Q: What is UNDP doing to help the recovery advance?

We are currently employing 3,695 workers, almost half of them are women, in emergency employment programmes in Tacloban, Ormoc, Roxas and Guiuan. The target is 10,000 by yearend, additional 20,000 in January 2014 and additional 15,000 in February 2014.

We have cleared debris from 9 hospitals, 75 schools and day-care centers, 3 drainage systems in Ormoc, municipal building in Guiuan and running of the entire city waste management system of Tacloban. Long term solutions to waste management, land-fills and recycling of waste are required. We assessed a wide area of damage along the coastline of Leyte and Samar. Currently, we are working with several municipalities on debris and waste management; recycling of fallen trees and coco lumber into housing material; and disaster risk reduction.

We are also supporting 24 municipalities to address primary needs for replacement of equipment, personnel, repairs and restoration of services. We organized the visit of Mr. Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, Indonesian Senior Minister who oversaw the historic rehabilitation of Aceh after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. He met with government officials, including with the newly appointed “Rehabilitation Czar” Panfilo Lacson, responsible for the recovery process, and shared lessons learned on how to rebuild effectively and shape a clear strategy in post-disaster situations after large-scale destruction.