100 days after Haiyan, the Philippines transitions to recovery


February 16th marks 100 days since Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines. The emergency response is almost over and the beginning of long-term recovery has begun.

I have been to the Philippines twice since Haiyan struck. In the early days, I went to help coordinate the response to this tragedy. Just recently I returned, to advise on the transition to long-term recovery. The progress over 100 days has been remarkable.

Immediately after the storm, UNDP began helping the government prepare for recovery. For example, only weeks after Haiyan, we facilitated a visit to the Philippines from the Government of Indonesia, bringing Kuntoro Mangkusubroto, who led the reconstruction effort in Aceh-Nias after the 2004 Tsunami. He attended a Philippines cabinet meeting on recovery, sharing with his colleagues the challenges and lessons learned from Indonesia. This visit may have been low-key – but was very valuable to the Philippines authorities – and it led to UNDP experts starting to work with the government to plan, prepare and budget the recovery.

But attention must now shift beyond the first 100 days and focus on the future. It is essential that we build resilience into the new cities that rise from the rubble. Disaster risk reduction must be an integral component of all future development. Time and time again we have seen that ignoring natural hazards invites disaster and erases development.

For example, while a great deal of attention will focus on rebuilding infrastructure, better recovery is not just about bricks and mortar, it is about the mechanics and systems behind the construction. This means that the laws enabling construction must be revisited and reinforced. Better building practices must be mandatory if they are to be effective.

We have been supporting governments and communities in preparing for disasters, with for example, early warning systems and rapid response teams. These must be codified in institutional policy and backed up with budgets and resources.

At the local level we have to emphasize area based reconstruction. Communities need to understand the risks they face. UNDP will help Philippine villagers to assess risk, through such tools as hazard maps, and learn the lessons from Haiyan. Color-coded building zones, denoting whether it is safe or not to reconstruct, should be instituted in rural areas.

Finally, we need to work with the private sector to rebuild. UNDP has experience training local construction firms in safer methods and has helped supply retailers with better quality materials. It is essential that the private sector sees reduced risk as something that is in their best interests, and that they adhere to the new laws and regulations on development.

While a long-term and challenging task, the integration of risk concerns into development through these kinds of risk governance measures will pay off in the long-term, as it is the only way to really protect development investment from disasters.

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