THE BLOG

The Long Road to Recovery After Typhoon Haiyan

07/11/2014 10:45 GMT | Updated 06/01/2015 10:59 GMT

A year ago, a storm of biblical proportions devastated the Philippines. In Tacloban, one of the worst hit cities, it shattered Bernadeth's house and brought havoc to her community. For months, the teenager and her family stayed in an evacuation centre.

Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda, brought untold damage and chaos to the lives of a population well used to dealing with extreme weather, but who were overwhelmed by the scale of what happened. More than 6,200 people died. A massive 1.7 million children like Bernadeth were displaced.

A year on, we're able to reflect on the full impact of what is thought to be the strongest storm to ever make landfall, and on what progress has been made in the recovery.

That recovery process takes lots of forms. Along with the physical reconstruction of buildings that were swept away, there is also - particularly where children are concerned - much emotional and psychological healing that needs to be done. There are lost months of schooling to make up, and for adults, lost months of precious income.

Even rebuilding homes isn't straightforward. New buildings need to be resilient should the worst happen again. At Plan UK - as one of the charities that led the response to Haiyan - we've been helping communities to 'build back better', providing not just the materials to do so but also equipping locals with disaster-resistant carpentry and plumbing skills.

Bernadeth's family was one to benefit from this scheme. "Our situation now is much better than before," explains her mother Ruvelyn, "because now we have a home. This house from Plan is much better than our old house."

But even with a new home, after living through something as traumatic as Typhoon Haiyan, life can still feel very different from before, especially for children. Returning to school can bring a sense of normality and structure that is crucial in a child's recovery. That's why it's an area that Plan prioritised in our response.

Bernadeth, now 16, had to stop her education for several months following the typhoon, leaving the area to stay with a relative in the capital Manila. Like more than 44,000 others that Plan has supported, she's now returned to school. Life remains tough, but as she explains, "All I can do now is try my best in my studies, so I can attend college. My goal is to be an English teacher."

But as well as a place to learn, children also need a place to laugh and to play; a place to simply be children. Plan's 'child-friendly spaces' have given this chance to over 20,000 children in the year following the storm. The principle behind them is that amid the wreckage and chaos, there is a safe space for children to have fun as well as to receive the psychological support that they need.

So as well as providing shelter and distributing food and medicine, for us responding to an emergency is about the long-term: supporting children's emotional recovery and working with communities to create resilience should a storm on this scale strike again.

And as we respond to a crisis of an entirely different kind - the Ebola outbreak in West Africa - it's important that we remember that as well as the needs that are all too apparent, we keep in mind those that are less immediately obvious, particularly for children.

Bernadeth is hopeful that she's ready for the future. "My life has changed after the typhoon. Before I used to rebel, but the typhoon made me realise that I need to value what's important in life. Like my mother and my siblings. Life is too short."

You can support Plan UK's response to the Ebola outbreak at www.plan-uk.org/ebola