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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

With Relief Goods Nearly Gone Super Typhoon Yolanda Survivors Rely on Grit

Relief goods for victims of typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) here have dwindled nearly a year following the catastrophe. Thus, hard-luck survivors deal with the inevitable reality of fending for themselves.
The City Social Welfare Development Office (CSWDO), the local body tasked with the distribution of relief goods in all 138 barangays, has stopped giving food packs in August.
The reason? There is no more food to distribute.
“Pero madami pa kaming Aquatabs, kahon-kahon (But we still have a lot of Aquatabs, boxes and boxes of them),” said Virgie, a CSWDO employee, pointing to the cache of water purifying tablets at the City Hall’s third floor.
“Galing Australia yan (Those came from Australia),” she added. While they may not be actual food, Aquatabs are much needed in the northern parts of the province where potable water supply remains a problem, Virgie bared.
She identified these areas as San Roque, Palanog, Sto. Niño, Tagporo, Sta. Elena, New Kawayan and Old Kawayan, which is near the famous San Juanico bridge that connects Leyte and Samar.
Yolanda tore through the country’ central islands on November 8, 2013, killing thousands and displacing millions. This triggered a massive, global-scale outpouring of support for the victims.
According to a USAID fact sheet, as of April 2014 international donors had pledged approximately $796M to address the needs of Yolanda survivors
Luz Aguillon, who signs the release orders, said they used to dispense “loaded” food packs containing half a sack of rice, 24 canned goods, 24 instant noodles and 20 packs of coffee when the city government began distribution efforts in December 12 last year.
First to run out were canned goods and coffee. “Depende kasi sa availability ng goods (it depends on the availability of the goods),” she noted.
On June 24, the CSWDO distributed only instant noodles to hungry storm victims after their rice supply was exhausted. The last pack of noodles was given out on August 22.
Because of the dwindling food supply, the city government failed to include Barangays 86, 59-A, 43-B and 35-A in the last wave of food distribution, the Manila Bulletin/ Tempo learned.
Should there be a resupply of relief goods, Aguillon said the CSWDO would prioritize “vulnerable” constituents composed of families with senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs) as well as pregnant and lactating women.
There are 17,391 families in the waiting list.
“Hinihintay namin na sumagot yung region sa request namin (We’re waiting for the DSWD regional office to respond to our request for additional goods),” she said.
Edwin, a tricycle driver from Barangay 48, said he realizes that he can’t rely on the government forever and must then use some elbow grease to feed his family of seven.
He counts himself among the lucky ones in the storm-ravaged city, having a steady source of income.
“Ang boundary ng tricycle P200. Kapag madami tao, kumikita ako P1,000. Kapag mahina naman kumikita ako P200-300 pwede na pambili ng bigas at ulam (I have to pay the tricycle operator 200 as boundary. If there are many passengers I can earn P1,000. On lean days, I earn P200 to P300 which is enough to buy rice and viand).”
He said there are over 2,500 registered tricycles in the city, meaning he must work hard to compete with his fellow drivers.
Edwin can’t help but feel that the government could do better in helping people get back on their feet. “Nakakabangon na kami unti-unti pero kung sa tulong ng gobyerno, kulang pa rin (We’re slowly getting back on our feet. As for government’s help, it is still lacking).” 

Over at the bunkhouses in Calipayan, residents still get a sack of rice every month. There used to be canned goods and noodles too, 32-year-old Lito Lucete shared.
“Wala nang ulam pero ang mahalaga may bigas. Madali na lang ulam (There are no viands anymore but at least they still give us rice. Viands are easy to find),” said Lucete while painting a pedicab on the side of the street.
A fellow resident among the swathe of bunkhouses here, Sharon, a mother of 10 says they had their last rice supply on October 22. Her family’s main source of income is a small sari-sari stall, which she was able to put with the help of a loan shark.
“Marami nga akong binabayarang utang (I have a lot of debts to pay),” she said with a chuckle.
But given the difficult living conditions in these cramped structures, Sharon said she would readily give up receiving relief goods in exchange for a permanent home.
“Kahit wala nang relief basta may paglalagyan sa amin na permanente. Mahirap kasi sa mga bata kapag palipat-lipat. May mga nag-aaral pa akong anak (I don’t mind not receiving relief goods as long as we get a permanent home. It’s difficult for children to transfer from one place to another. Some of my kids are still studying),” she said.
The regional office of the DSWD is in charge of the relief distribution in bunk houses.
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