Waste management for disease prevention a pressing need in Tacloban

Nov 27, 2013

Workers cleaning up a hospital in Tacloban. (Photo: UNDP)

Tacloban, Philippines
-- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is assisting local authorities in Tacloban to resume safe disposal of growing piles of municipal solid waste which has become a public health concern in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

"Municipal solid waste has been lying on the streets without being picked up, which can lead to infections such as hepatitis A or B," said Alma Evangelista, crisis prevention and recovery portfolio manager at UNDP Philippines.

Restarting municipal solid waste systems is therefore one of the key priorities of the United Nation's early recovery disaster response. Since residents have no options for waste disposal, much of the household waste is either piling up on the street or moved to three temporary dumpsites around Tacloban City.

An increase in municipal solid waste without proper disposal sites can put communities at risk of disease among other hazards. UNDP is working closely with the local government to establish routine household waste pick-up. In addition, heavy equipment will soon start clearing temporary disposal sites.

Other projected recovery work includes the establishment of temporary operated landfills, building a robust recycling system and assisting local government in improving its waste management systems.

“It’s imperative to think of the longer term development priorities while we look at how we can act now,” Alma Evangelista said.

The immediate clean-up can offer long-term benefits through skills development and training, including carpentry. For example, UNDP will establish a workshop where local carpenters can hone their craft while refurbishing the thousands of tonnes of timber extracted from the storm debris. This timber will be recycled into housing supplies, which has a dual benefit of easing the burden on natural resources in the area. In the future, this workshop can serve as a fulltime wood-working business for long-term employment.

UNDP is conducting the debris removal and waste management activities in coordination with the Office of Civil Defence (OCD) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

UNDP is currently providing employment for more than 200 people who engage daily in a cash-for-work scheme. Residents are paid 260 pesos a day to manually clear targeted zones of the worst affected communities. The wages will help to jumpstart the local economy and expedite a return to healthy and productive communities.

The initial early recovery activities are funded by Japan, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, and UNDP.

To meet the urgent needs of the devastated communities, UNDP is seeking another US$ 10 million for recovery through the Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan launched on 13 November 2013 in Manila.

For more information, please contact:

In Manila:
Stanislav Saling, Spokesperson a.i., UNDP Philippines, stanislav.saling@undp.org,  +63 917 597 4744 and Philip Castro, Communications Officer, UNDP Philippines, philip.castro@undp.org, +63 2 901 0223
In Bangkok:
Cherie Hart, UNDP Regional Communications Advisor, cherie.hart@undp.org, +66 8 1 918 1564
In New York:
Damian Kean, UNDP Communications Officer, damian.kean@undp.org, +1 212 906 6871

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