Wrapping up her visit to the Philippines, Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrator, on Thursday commended Super Typhoon Yolanda relief efforts in the country but said that more work remains for quick transition of the Visayas region to recovery.
The region was hit the hardest by the so-called super typhoon.
“The humanitarian relief phase is very successful in that despite the scale of what happened there was no major outbreak of disease which we sometimes see in very, very serious disasters,” Clark said.
“But, of course, there comes a point where you want to draw a
line on humanitarian response and see traction on the way to rehabilitation and recovery,” she added.
A former Prime Minister of New Zealand, Clark noted that she sees the Philippines as a country that has had a lot of experience in dealing with disasters but Yolanda, she said, is bigger than anything that not only the country but the world has ever seen.
“What I see is a lot of capacity for dealing with these kinds of emergencies but the severity of Yolanda tells us all, and not only the Philippines but Bangladesh and a lot of very, very exposed countries [as well], about what has happened to the world’s climate, that we need to be lifting our level of community awareness, preparedness, systems to a whole new level,” Clark said.
Although the UNDP head was impressed with relief efforts, she added that she is now looking at opportunities for development to support governments and communities for “more enduring recovery,” especially that the tropical season is just three to four months away.
“We fervently hope that it will not deliver anything like Yolanda, which was unprecedented in scale and severity anywhere in the world,” Clark said.
The challenge now is to move “as quickly as possible” from the relief stage to rehabilitation and recovery “not only to build back, but to build back stronger and more sustainably,” she added, noting that additional aid from Japan is particularly vital.
Japan is the UNDP’s largest partner in its Yolanda Recovery Program with $7 million contributions in sum. It announced an additional $3.5 million on Wednesday for the recovery efforts.
The UNDP head is on a two-day visit to the country to reaffirm support for post-Yolanda recovery and the peace process in Mindanao.
“I’ve had good briefings from secretaries . . . involved with the ongoing efforts on Yolanda, civil defense, preparedness and disaster reduction, the coordination of recovery and rehabilitation, and also the social development that could be done from here,” Clark said.
On Tuesday, she met with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Presidential Assistant for Recovery and Reconstruction Secretary Panfilo Lacson to discuss post-2015 development agenda, disaster reduction and typhoon recovery.
“The plans look good to me,” Clark said and promised that the UNDP will keep looking at how to support implementation “in a speedy manner.”
When asked what she will convey to President Aquino, she suggested “reviewing the system to align itself behind the plans the government is developing and to work with the government to support the capacity to do it.”
Clark acknowledged the need to move people from temporary shelters, saying “concession at the municipality level have to be made on where people should be residing” while they are on the road to permanent recovery.
She visited Tacloban City, Leyte, to check on UNDP’s cash-for-work projects, which benefited nearly 40,000 typhoon victims.
Tacloban is one of the poorest parts in the Philippines where 40 percent of the people had lived below the poverty line before the November typhoon that affected 14 million people.
By the start of March, UNDP’s Typhoon Yolanda recovery and resilience program received $15.5 million from Japan, Ecuador, the Russian Federation, the Central Emergency Response Fund and the UNDP itself.
This month, the UNDP and the government will work with six coastal areas to address their capacity to deal with storm surges in the future.
Four months after the typhoon, victims have secured temporary jobs clearing debris while earning quick cash and helping clear wreckage so that establishments can resume operations.
At least 15 hospitals, 220 rural health units, 666 schools, 588 daycare centers, 629 municipal government buildings and 200 other infrastructure were able to function again, with the help of UNDP.
Clark said she wants to tell the President the significance of the voice of the Philippines in the coming UN Climate Change Summit.