The Philippines: Emergency work kick-starts recovery in Santa Fe

Six months since devastating Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, UNDP is providing emergency employment to affected communities so they can rebuild and move on from the disaster

Trinidad Bato-balono
(Photo credit: Anna Mae Lamentillo / UNDP)

Trinidad Bato-balono proudly points to a section of white, sandy beach in her home town on the island of Santa Fe.

“I helped clean this part of the coast from debris after Typhoon Haiyan," she says, indicating the pristine stretch of sand. "Now businesses are slowly starting to pick up, tourists are returning and students are going back to school."


  • UNDP support is helping communities on the island of Santa Fe, in the Philippines, recover and rebuild after they were hit by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013;
  • Mountains of debris have been cleared, 15 enabling hospitals, 744 schools , 620 daycare centers, 622 municipal buildings, approximately 1746 kilometers of roads and 970 kilometers of drainage to start working again; and
  • 42, 168 affected people, of whom almost 35 percent are women, have secured temporary jobs in UNDP’s early recovery programme in the Visayas.

With support from the United Nations Development Programme, local residents have been able to find jobs clearing debris from the beaches and roads and rebuilding the port, which has been crucial to recovering the tourism industry. Despite a destroyed ramp, ferry services have now resumed their regular operations and are providing locals and foreigners access to hundreds of trips every week from Hagnaya Warf, in San Remigio, to Sante Fe.

“Without the help of UNDP, we would have not been able to resume operations as fast as we did,” says Jose Esgana, the mayor of Sante Fe. “Through hundreds of participants in the cash-for-work programmes, we were able to clear classrooms, roads, and coastal areas much more quickly.”

To date, more than 42, 000 people who had been affected by the disaster have secured temporary jobs in UNDP’s early recovery programme in the Visayas, a central cluster of islands in the Philippines. Local authorities and community leaders collaborate in selecting the workers, who are paid the legal minimum wage, to Participants are employed for up to 15 days at a time.

As well as preventing a slide backwards into poverty for those affected by the storm, six months after the typhoon struck, workers have helped clear mountains of debris, which has allowed 15 hospitals, 744 schools , 620 daycare centres and more than 600 municipal buildings to return to day to day business. Close to 2,000 km of roads and almost 1,000 km of drainage have also been repaired.

"UNDP already had a strong presence in the affected communities immediately after Typhoon Yolanda struck,” says UNDP Recovery Coordinator Phillip Cooper. “This means that we were able to help the affected population in the first month through emergency employment schemes. We were impressed to see the resilience and determination of the Filipinos to rebuild their homes and to help their fellow brothers and sisters.”

The road to recovery has not been easy for Bato-balono, a 55-year old masseuse and manicurist. After recently rebuilding her home, which had been washed away by Typhoon Frank in 2008, she and her family of seven found themselves back at the starting point.

"The first month was the hardest for me and my family," Bato-balono says. After the typhoon, the shore was barely distinguishable beneath mountains of debris, resorts had shut down, tourists no longer flocked to the beaches and there were no jobs available for Sante Fe's residents.

"No one was thinking of having a massage or a manicure," Boto-balono says. "People did not have any money to spare, so when I heard about UNDP's cash-for-work programme, I applied immediately."

Bato-balono householdTrinidad Bato-balono and her family and her family in front of their restored home. (Photo: Anna Mae Lamentillo / UNDP)

Today, the sight of ships returning to the harbour is a vision full of promise and expectation. Boto-balono has high hopes for her community and for her family. Thanks to the income she earned from clearing debris and the construction materials she obtained from the government, her household of seven was able to restore their old home.

“For me this is a miracle,” Bato-balono says. “As long as my family is together I know we can rebuild our lives.”

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