UNHCR tarps provide coverage for Typhoon Haiyan survivors

Making a Difference, 18 November 2013

© UNHCR/V.Tan
Typhoon survivor Evelyn Quisaba (in pink) finds comfort in daily chores at her makeshift home in San Roque, Leyte province in the Philippines.

TANAUAN, Philippines, November 18 (UNHCR) Evelyn Quisaba has lived by the sea most of her life, but now it gives her nightmares. Every night the 53-year-old housewife sits on the ruins of her home, listening as the waves crash against the shore. The louder ones send her running for cover.

But she is among the luckier ones. Thousands of people were killed when Typhoon Haiyan swept through the central Philippines in the early hours of November 8. Evelyn and her family survived the high winds and storm surges because they had been evacuated to a gymnasium in advance.

When they returned to their home in San Roque, 45 minutes' drive from Tacloban City in Leyte province, they found only the kitchen counter standing against a flattened seascape. "I was so shocked, I cried and cried," recalled Evelyn.

Within days, the family built a makeshift shack around the kitchen counter using pieces of cardboard and wood salvaged from the rubble around them. The tiny hut is clearly overcrowded for an extended family with 15 people.

"Not everyone can lie down at the same time, so we take turns sleeping. Some of us just sit and doze off if we can. This is not ideal for my daughter-in-law, who will give birth any day now," she said.

Thankfully they still have some food, but otherwise they live on scavenged materials, including clothes they find on the streets and wash before wearing.

UNHCR recently visited this ravaged community on the coast of eastern Leyte to assess their needs and distribute relief items trucked in from the agency's stocks in Mindanao, further south. Some 7,000 people received supplies in the form of plastic sheets, blankets, mosquito sets and cooking utensils.

"The roof leaks when it rains. So I asked for plastic sheets, so the water will stop dripping and we can sleep better," said Evelyn. "This is what we really need. I think this is the most important thing for my family now, so we can have a good sleep."

The plastic sheeting has also allowed her to expand her living space into a covered patio where she cooks and washes clothes. Beside the shack, her son is building more shelters for the large family.

Right beside the sea, another family has set up home beside the remnants of their house. Under a UNHCR tarpaulin, two young mothers sit with their newborns, hiding from the harsh weather that fluctuates between the brutal sun and rain.

"The sheet keeps the rain out, and my husband is building a new house outside," said Brenda Vincito, 20, nursing her baby. She admits the waves scare her, but said they have nowhere else to go. Evelyn, meanwhile, has heard that the government plans to set up a temporary site with UNHCR tents. "I will move there as soon as it is ready," she said, eyeing the sea warily.

To date, the UN refugee agency has distributed relief items to some 15,000 typhoon survivors in the Tanauan and Tacloban areas. It is expanding aid distribution to other affected areas from new humanitarian hubs in Ormoc, on the western coast of Leyte, and Guiuan in Eastern Samar province where the typhoon first made landfall.

As part of the inter-agency emergency response, UNHCR is also supporting the government with protection monitoring and delivery.

By Vivian Tan in San Roque, Philippines

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Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

An estimated 13 million people were affected when Typhoon Haiyan struck the central Philippines on November 8. Thousands were killed and about 3 million are believed to be displaced - some of them living in evacuation sites, others on the ruins of their former homes. Tacloban City in Leyte province was one of the hardest-hit areas. A week after the typhoon made landfall, large parts of its coast remain flattened and piles of debris still line the streets. Working with the Philippines government and UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is airlifting emergency supplies for thousands of survivors. The agency is delivering tents, plastic sheets, mosquito nets and other critical aid. It is also co-leading the protection cluster with the government, working to identify vulnerable people and ensuring that they have access to basic assistance and services. UNHCR has appealed for US$15 million to meet these critical needs. UNHCR is now present in Tacloban and Ormoc in Leyte province, as well as Guiuan in Eastern Samar province.

Typhoon Haiyan Devastates the Philippines

Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: A home for NowPlay video

Philippines: A home for Now

Losing your family and home is losing everything you are and have. Tyhone Haiyan tore many families apart and took almost every persons home in Tacloban City ... in one day. UNHCR has provided more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area in addition to solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and other relief items to help the people of Tacloban City regain a sense of life.
Philippines: Leaving the Darkness Play video

Philippines: Leaving the Darkness

When typhoon Haiyan swept Tacloban City, it took with it what people need the most to see their way through any hard time: light. UNHCR has provided people of the Philippines with relief items that are helping make a difference. Relief items such as solar lanterns, plastic sheets, blankets and more than 1,500 family tents to families in this area.