I’m back out on the ledge again. Somebody talk me down.
Today I read a news report from ABS-CBN in which the Philippine government proudly proclaimed that it will provide temporary bunkhouse shelter for 2,800 families in Yolanda affected areas by Christmas. Really? That’s 119 bunkhouses, each with 24 dwellings in the shelter — thus 119 x 24 equals 2,800 (actually 2,856). That’s it.
Here we go again. Before I start — my credential for going on a rant about this is that my wife Rena and I have sixty family members rendered homeless by Typhoon Yolanda.
Aside from the article cited above — tonight I overheard a conversation that my son Patrick had with a journalist who just returned from a trip to Western Visayas, and will be writing about it in the coming days. Take note: this refers to Western Visayas, the area you don’ t hear about — the area where Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) made its 3rd, 4th, and 5th landfalls. Until now almost all of the media coverage has centered on Leyte and Samar, in Eastern Visayas, where the storm first hit. He was completely shaken by what he had seen. Dozens (many dozens) of barangays that until now have relieved no relief at all. More uncounted bodies — so many that the journalist fears the official could may only be a small percentage of the real total.
The journalist’s information is anecdotal, not statistical, but it got me to thinking. I’ve been really shaken lately by the enormity of the numbers for destroyed homes and displaced people that come out via statistical reports, compared (frighteningly) to the incredibly puny nature of the numbers for temporary shelter that is being provided.
I decided to try and put this in perspective so I started by finding a good map of the path of the typhoon. Take a look:
Now — ask yourself: Other than Leyte and Samar, how much are we hearing in the media about the other areas? Almost nothing. Yet look at them. Those are heavily populated areas and literally thousands of tiny coastal barangays (villages).
Now plug in these numbers, which are government numbers culled from recent government releases:
- 4,971 devastated barangays in an area of 25,000 square kilometers
- 2.3 million households affected/11.2 million people
- Over 1 million homes destroyed
- “The brunt of Typhoon Yolanda’s powerful onslaught, Signal No. 4 wind velocity of up to 250 kph and accompanying storm surge, was absorbed by 63 municipalities in Region 8’s Leyte and Samar provinces; as well as 84 municipalities in (the Western Visayas region). “
Still with me?
Think about those numbers. That’s 1,000,000 homes destroyed, 2,300,000 households affected, and 11,200,000 people displaced. Those are staggering, hard-to-wrap-your-head-around numbers.
Now plug in THESE staggeringly puny numbers, also from the government.
- Housing kits being delivered: 200 (have already written about that travesty.)
- Government temporary “bunkhouse” housing to be completed by Christmas – 2,800 temporary dwellings.
How can they make these announcements with a straight face — as if this is actually addressing the problem?
I am NOT saying that this is all the government has funding for, or is all it has in the pipeline. They have announced a P40B fund for rehabilitation, and there are other announcements, for example, regarding a P14B budget request. It’s not about how much budget has been set aside. It’s about how that money is being used, in a timely way, to address the most pressing needs of shelter for the homeless people out there.
Are there other announcements that I’m missing — announcements that show that there is more concrete projects in the pipeline that address this massive problem? If anyone has seen announcements that I’m missing, please send them to me and I will adjust what I’m saying accordingly. But I’m not finding anything like that. what I’m finding is that there are disconnected statements coming out of the government — some statements referring to the funding that has been received or is in the pipeline, some statements regarding the calculated cost. But when it comes down to solid announcements about nearterm plans for addressing the problem of people rendered homeless …. very little seems to be happening.
I still despair that people are getting it. So here is an “info-graphic” I made.
The blue is the number of people whose homes were destroyed.
The red is the number of of people who will have temporary shelter eight weeks after the typhoon.
I really don’t know what else to say.
(My son did the math. December 25 will be 47 days after the typhoon, and they will have provide 0.2% of the homeless with temporary shelter. At this rate, all homeless will have shelter in 64 years. )
Somebody talk me down off the ledge before I jump.
If they would just temper their announcements with some words about the scope of the problem, it wouldn’t seem so insulting and frightening when they announce some miniscule pinprick of an effort. But they don’t do that. They proudly proclaim they are doing something meaningful when it’s not.
And here’s an important larger point. The Philippines can’t do this alone but with the government acting as if they have it in hand — this lessens the sense of urgency felt by other nations and international organizations. So I’m not saying that the Philippine government is supposed to be able to handle this by itself. They can’t. The problem is too big. But what they can do, and must do, is make an honest case to the world about the massive scope of the problem and their inability to address it in a meaningful way. This is a global problem — we are all in this together, not just the Philippines, but the Philippine government is not raising the alarm and is instead minimizing the probem, making a show of having things under control when they don’t. This is just wrong. Mr. President — admin you don’t have it under control, cry out loudly and often for help, tell the world how bad it is and stop trying to minimize the problem.