The Philippines: Picking up the pieces after typhoon Bopha

Anasaria, like other single women-headed households, is faced with numerous challenges including fending for her family in the absence of her husband. Credit: OCHA/R. Maingi

Picking up the pieces after typhoon Bopha in Eastern Mindanao, Philippines

Thirty-six year old Anasaria Mandawe, mother of six, has not fully recovered from the death of her husband and 18 year-old daughter who perished in the typhoon Bopha disaster that devastated the Philippines’ Mindanao region on 4 December 2012.

The typhoon was reportedly the most powerful storm to hit southern Mindanao in more than 100 years. So strong were the winds that within minutes, Anasaria’s house, made from woven palm leaves and coconut lumber caved in leaving them with nothing to hold on to. Her husband suggested they brave the heavy winds and rains and walk to the Barangay (village) community grounds where people were seeking refuge.

As fate would have it, one of the walls of the community center collapsed and killed her husband and daughter instantly. “It all happened too first; I could not save them as I held on to the other children,” Anasaria recalls as she fights off tears, more than six weeks after the ordeal.

However, Anasaria is grateful to the government and the humanitarian community for providing her with a tent to call home for the moment, food and a cooking area, non-food items, and sanitation facilities.  “My children and I even got some clothes as we lost everything in the typhoon,” she explains, managing a smile.  Anasaria is living in a tented community in Barangay Banao in Baganga municipality, Davao Oriental province, which is hosting 99 other families (approximately 500 people).

More than 200,000 houses were destroyed and around 800,000 people displaced and now either living in make-shift shelters or in their partially-damaged houses. The worst hit municipalities were Boston, Banganga and Cateel in Davao Oriental province, Davao region. 

The future is uncertain for the 6.2 million people generally affected by the typhoon as coconut, banana and rice fields which the majority of residents depended on for their income were damaged.  Anasaria knows the burden of providing for her six children is enormous in the absence of her husband, but she is determined to give them the best with whatever help she can get. She says, “I hope that the government can assist me and other women to acquire vocational skills or startup capital for small businesses.” At the moment, she is benefiting from a cash-for-work program with a local NGO to cook and keep their kitchen tidy, a good distraction from her thoughts.

In a survey recently conducted by the Shelter Cluster in the areas most affected by the typhoon,  female single-headed households were prioritised for immediate shelter assistance as they are the least likely to reconstruct their homes on their own. Jasmin Fabe, one of the officers with a local NGO assisting the displaced says another gap in the support to such women is psychosocial support “to cope with their losses including the death of husbands, damage to homes and at times isolation from the community, which we are trying to address”.

On 25 January, the international humanitarian community re-launched an action plan seeking US$76 million to respond to 920,000 people most affected by the typhoon in the next six months. The appeal is a 17 per cent increase from the $65 million sought on 10 December 2012 at the onset of the disaster. The action plan outlines how the humanitarian community will support the Government in responding to major needs including shelter, early recovery and livelihoods, food security and agriculture, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH).

Updated Date: 
4 February, 2013

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