I’ve seen it happen, time and time again.
Ever since I arrived in the Philippines over seven years ago, when a natural disaster strikes, local officials, supported by the international aid community, promise that they’ll rebuild the affected areas so the new structures will be more resistant to calamities in the future. Scores of experts are called in to share their knowledge, donors pledge millions of dollars in funds, and the government insists that this time it will follow through and coordinate reconstruction efforts to make sure the dwellings are up to standard.
Sadly, the high hopes then turn into empty promises.
As foreign aid dwindles after media attention goes somewhere else and local officials skim off their share from the remaining reconstruction budget, there’s not enough money to build the houses — or at least build them well — and the survivors are given a small handout before they are left to fend for themselves, while the detailed plans submitted by architects and disaster resilience experts rarely reach the communities they were targeting in the first place.
What replaces the rubble is thus the same ramshackle shanties made of thin plywood and corrugated iron roofs, that of course get swept away with the next storm — and this is precisely what’s happening three months after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines.
Instead of considering long-term plans like relocating the battered city of Leyte to higher ground, or ramping up education efforts so citizens understand how to distinguish between a storm surge and a tsunami, the government has put a former fugitive of justice in charge of the long-term recovery plans, tolerated tiny bunkhouses that don’t meet international standards for the survivors, and ignored the advice of local specialists in building disaster-resilient homes.
Why? Long-term solutions to any problem are rarely implemented in the Philippines, where the 24-hour news cycle, three-year terms for elected officials — except the president — and short-term memory of a generally complacent population mean no one really cares enough about this issue to actually make an honest effort to fix it once and for all. Not even the survivors demand much, as long as they see that they are getting some kind of help — even if it’s not really addressing their long-term needs.
For the complete article, please see devex.