08/05/2014 19:39 BST | Updated 08/07/2014 06:59 BST

As the Emergency Response Teams Leave, the British Red Cross Is Stepping Up Its Long-Term Recovery Efforts

This week, the British Red Cross is launching a long-term recovery programme in the Philippines as the disaster-prone country continues to recover from super-storm Haiyan and braces itself for the onslaught of this year's typhoon season.

But as we mark six months since the typhoon hit, many organisations specialising in emergency response are leaving and the levels of support have dwindled, even though the needs remain immense.

In the immediate aftermath, the international support for the Philippines was huge. Nations and charities from around the world came forward pledging tens of millions of pounds in emergency aid. In those first few weeks, food and water, medical supplies and emergency shelter were priorities for those responding to the staggering needs of the millions of affected people on the ground.

Now, the focus must be on the future and the long term recovery of the areas ravaged by the Philippines' strongest ever storm. That commitment is what is often found lacking once a major disaster shifts out of the public spotlight. But ensuring communities are given the resources, training and materials they need to rebuild is exactly what the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement specialises in. We are there when the worst happens and we remain on the scene until the people can, and are, recovering.

In Iloilo, on Panay island in the Western Visayas, the British Red Cross is doing exactly that. In partnership with the Philippine Red Cross, we have launched a three-year project to help rebuild and regenerate. Iloilo was among the worst hit provinces with major damage to housing and infrastructure. Its predominantly farming and fishing-based economy flat-lined and will take many months, if not years, to fully recover. Families were left with no means of making a living; their fishing boats smashed to pieces and their coconut crops toppled.

What people need now is cash to help restart businesses and diversify. They need tools and materials to rebuild and the skills to help ensure houses are constructed in a safer, stronger way that will better withstand another natural disaster. We will be helping thousands of households in Iloilo do exactly that, while our colleagues from the Philippine Red Cross and Red Cross and Red Crescent societies around the world, will continue to focus on populations in other affected areas where there remains a massive humanitarian need.

But it is also vital that community resilience is at the forefront of our efforts so we can enable people to prepare for, cope with and recover from crises like Haiyan. Last year, more than 20 typhoons affected the Philippines, as well as flooding in the north of the country, an armed insurgency in the south and a major earthquake in the central region.


Helping the local population put in place early warning plans, for example, as well as training people within the community to promote safer hygiene practices and simple ways to reduce disease. We will be working to ensure that more than 30,000 people will benefit from this in the first phase of our Iloilo programme, and that they can then continue to share that knowledge with others.

While these plans signify a strong start to the recovery phase, there is a long and difficult journey ahead for those hit hardest by the storm. Tens of thousands of people remain homeless, without power and without access to a fully functioning healthcare system. The psychological scars have yet to heal as the families of the more than 6,000 killed and the almost 2,000 still missing continue to adjust to life without their loved ones.

As we hit the six-month milestone we must not lose sight of the support the Philippines still desperately needs.