Habitat responds to Typhoon Haiyan


By Soyia Ellison, Habitat for Humanity International’s associate director of copywriting services

Editor’s Note: Ellison is in the Philippines and shares this update on our relief efforts in the hard-hit country.

A tarp may not seem like much. But to Flora Mae Boytraugo, it is a precious gift.

After Typhoon Haiyan ripped away two of her of home’s walls and gouged holes in its tin roof, she and her family had to sleep sitting up to keep their faces above the water and mud that covered the concrete floor each time it rained.

Then, less than a week after the storm, Habitat Philippines distributed 113 emergency shelter kits to the residents of her tiny island of Botongo. She and her husband, Carlos, used the kit’s tarps and hooks to cover their roof and form a wall.

“I am more confident now that I can sleep properly and rain won’t fall in the house,” she says. Her voice rises, and tears form in her eyes. “It was really very much a help.”

An enormous undertaking

Typhoon Haiyan — or Yolanda as it is known in the Philippines — is the second-deadliest on record in this island nation. The storm cut a wide swath through the country, damaging more than 700,000 homes. Nearly two weeks later, more than 4 million people are still displaced.

Habitat has spent the past week distributing 5,000 emergency shelter kits — all provided by funding from the British government — to families like Boytraugo’s, and we plan to do much more.

On Friday, Nov. 22, in Daan Bantayan, Habitat will distribute the first of what is hoped to be 30,000 shelter repair kits, which contain lumber, corrugated metal, nails, a hammer and a saw. Plans also call for the distribution of 50,000 cleanup kits and, later, the building of new homes.

Another distribution of shelter repair kits is scheduled Saturday in the hard-hit city of Guiuan, about nine hours from Cebu.

How many kits Habitat can distribute and how many houses we can build depends on grants and donations. But Habitat Philippines CEO Leonilo “Tots” Escalada says the organization is capable of big things.

“Our advantage is we have experience — we know how to do this,” he says. “We have the partnerships, with governments and other NGOs, and we have strong leadership.”

After a severe tropical storm hit the city of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao province last December, for example, Habitat immediately set to work. In less than a year, we have built about 4,500 new homes there.

“We are confident we can do even bigger things for the victims of this typhoon,” Escalada says. “And we’re not going anywhere. As an organization, we are staying until communities are redeveloped.”