First Person

In the Philippines, success in the unseen

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Typhoon Haiyan destroyed fishing villages on the island of Leyte in the Philippines. Photo by Anne Wright/Oxfam

In the month since Typhoon Haiyan caused monumental wreckage in the Philippines, Oxfam has been able to reach nearly 250,000 people with life-saving assistance. But as Oxfam’s Shaheen Chughtai notes, many of those who survived that terrifying onslaught of wind, rain, and storm surge are going to need more than a bag of rice and clean water to recover.

Many people lost family members in the storm—the death count is now more than 5,700—a psychological toll that’s impossible to measure. Many lost homes—more than a million were destroyed or damaged. And untold others saw their fields flooded and their fishing gear swept away, leaving families uncertain about how to make a living in the months ahead.

In a personal account written for Global Post one month after the storm, Chughtai, Oxfam’s policy lead in the Philippines, tells how the storm surge swallowed coastal communities, how the wind snapped coconut palms like match sticks, and how, when Haiyan finally passed, a jungle of rubble confronted survivors and aid workers. The evidence of the storm’s unprecedented power was everywhere.

What’s not so obvious, says Chughtai—but no less noteworthy—is the quiet success that the government and local and international aid groups working with the people affected have had in keeping a second disaster at bay: There have been no major outbreaks of disease. When water and sanitation systems collapse, the potential for a public health calamity looms large. That’s why a key part of Oxfam’s early response has been to ensure people have access to clean water, latrines, and hygiene essentials, like soap.

But there’s a great deal more work to do. And the Filipinos, responding with solidarity, are setting the example.

“It’s something we need to match,” says Chughtai.

Support families working to rebuild. Help Oxfam scale up our response in the Philippines: Donate to the Typhoon Haiyan Relief and Recovery Fund. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+