Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) not only killed thousands of people; it erased the identities of thousands more because of the records it destroyed.
Now the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) together with 13 other groups, including a local NGO, international NGOs, and government agencies are working hard to make sure that the same thing never happens again.
Sights and sounds of construction abound across the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas. Rebuilding is well underway since the November 8, 2013 storm, but it’s not just buildings and infrastructure that need replaced.
When Typhoon Yolanda ripped homes and buildings apart, precious government documents were inundated. Waterlogged paper wiped out records of people’s births, marriages and deaths, land titles, permits and small business documents. For people and businesses getting back on their feet, these documents are vital.
“We will be looking at how we can support the municipal governments to improve the way they store data and how we can make this more climate proof and more resilient to disasters,” said Luiza Carvalho, UN Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP’s resident representative.
During the April 7 launch of a smaller initiative under the Access to Benefits and Claims after Disaster (ABCD) in Palo, Leyte, UNDP joined a consortium comprising the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, United Nations Children’s Fund and others who are all working to help governments restore service provisions, including the recovery of documents.
“Without our records, nobody knows we are people; nobody knows we are there,” said Gov. Leopoldo Dominico Petilla of Leyte province.
In early 2014, UNDP began helping local governments salvage ruined paperwork at municipal offices through an emergency employment scheme. As the recovery takes shape, UNDP is expanding its support to local governments to include long-term sustainable assistance like building LGU frontline services.
With UNDP support, local governments can restore public services that have a tremendous impact on the country’s recovery. In assisting the local mayor’s offices, UNDP will help new businesses open fast and provide much needed livelihood services.
By assisting the engineering departments, UNDP will contribute to families rebuilding their homes safely. Lastly, in assisting civil registrar’s offices, UNDP will contribute to swift and sound legal decrees.
“If we can have more of this, the rehabilitation and reconstruction of all Yolanda areas would be faster, more efficient and more effective,” said Secretary Corazón Solíman, head of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.