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Typhoon Haiyan

“If we stay here, we die of hunger. If we leave, we lose everything we lived for”

A man and woman, both of whom use a crutch for mobility
© CBM
Myline & Edgar, who spent eight days sheltering in their workshop, protecting it and themselves at the same time after Typhoon Haiyan

A small group people sheltering in their workshop after Typhoon Haiyan. The CBM Rapid Assessment Team found them frightened, hungry and losing hope.

Hungry and losing hope

On the mountain side of Tacloban, slightly elevated above the city, the CBM Rapid Assessment Team found a group of women, many with disabilities, and young children sheltering in the workshop of the Tacloban Persons with Disability Cooperative.

The group had been living there for eight days since Typhoon Haiyan and had food to last them only two more days. They were scared, hungry and had lost all sense of hope.

Refused food

One of the members, a young woman named Myline, told us what happened when she went to find food for the group. “I lined up for two hours in Tacloban city to get food for us. When I got to the front of the queue the man told that I was not eligible for the food distribution because the group were not registered residents in the area”

“He said that because we live in a building and not our houses we cannot get food from there. I asked him how will we eat, but he did not reply” Myline told us, shaking her head. It was clear their situation was dire.  The group was made up of around thirty people and many had their bags packed ready to leave for Manila.

Frightened at night

On the day of the typhoon twelve of them hid inside the workshop.

“At first we were relaxed because we thought it was an ordinary typhoon” said Jemalyn, a project manager at the Cooperative. “I thought it was just a mild wind but then the water started coming in.”

“It was very deep and rose fast up to my waist. We were scared and crying and shivering. We managed to smash a hole in the back wall to let the water out” she said.

“The workers of the co-operative are like a family, we have been through so much together. The Typhoon Yolanda [Haiyan] has separated us. I don’t know what will happen to our future now.”

Jemalyn does not know whether all of the thirty members are safe. “I have not been able to contact some of the members” Jemalyn said. “Some have left Tacloban already but others I do not know where they are” she said.

Jemalyn describes how afraid the group has felt over the past eight days.  “At night I hear people come and rattle the lock to see if they can get in. We are frightened because we are mostly women here.  We are on the mountain side and there are no neighbours” she told us. “I have heard of rapes happening in the city and without men here I am very afraid” Jemalyn said.

No options

“These past few days we have been planning to go to Manila because we are too afraid to stay here. We have been crying because we don’t want to leave everything here that we have worked so hard for” she said.

The group faced an agonising decision. If they fled the city their entire livelihood would be lost.  “If we leave here people will steal the equipment and machinery. Then we will have lost everything, our homes, our income and our work. We will have nothing” Jemalyn said.

“But without food we cannot stay. We have no money and we are not safe here. We feel we have no options” she said.

Protection, food and hope for the future

The CBM team spent the next twenty four hours with the group figuring out solutions to ensure their safety and welfare. The Redemptionist Church in Tacloban provided five volunteers, three men and two women, to sleep at the workshop to ensure their safety. Brothers from the Edmund Rice Foundation, a very helpful organisation, arranged food packages of rice, canned food, oil and powered milk from Maasin city, three hours south of Tacloban.

CBM began supporting arrangements for the food distribution and for the workshop to be moved two hours north of Tacloban where the group could continue work, earn an income and access electricity.

Over the 24 hours, relief among the group began to set in.  “We are getting strength from you.  We are getting hope for a brighter future” Jemalyn said. “Thank you for giving us hope and opening our mind that there is still a chance to gather the family together again” she said.

Story from Chelsea Huggett

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