11/05/2014 05:30 EST | Updated 01/05/2015 05:59 EST

The Philippines Still Needs Your Donations

We're pleased to say that the tremendous amount of work that has been achieved is in large part due to the support we've received from generous Canadians. Canadians donated over $80 million to support the Typhoon Haiyan response. A generation of children thank you, but continue to need your support.


On November 8th, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan - the strongest storm ever to hit landfall - ripped through central Philippines killing more than 6,000 people, destroying over one million homes, and affecting more than 14 million people. Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as "Yolanda") left complete devastation in its wake by sweeping away houses, uprooting coconut trees, destroying boats, taking away people's livelihoods in the space of a few hours. Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the lives of millions and its destruction will take years to overcome. Save the Children was one of the first humanitarian organizations on the ground. One year on, we remain the largest aid agency in some of the hardest hit areas.

I landed in Tacloban City shortly after the disaster hit. As the plane approached, the devastation was unfathomable. After more than 25 years with Save the Children, I've responded to many emergencies and can reasonably ascertain how a natural disaster will impact the future of its region's children. In humanitarian response we have a formula that we use to project the level of damage. The formula considers that the magnitude of risk of any disaster is affected by the size of the disaster itself or in other words the size of the threat and this is proportionally increased by the level of vulnerability of the population that it hits. We have also learned that the local capacity of the community is also a clear indicator in the reduction of that risk. However, in the days in Tacloban this formula became alive for me. I saw something in the men, women and children I met that would amend my perception. I saw the full power of resilience and determination, proactively starting them on the road of recovery.

Each individual I met moved me with their stories of disaster and their determination to rebuild. If they lost a house, they would build another. One woman had given birth during the storm and demonstrated the ferocious strength that only a mother can show to keep her newborn safe. An initial assessment of the damage on one community centre left a group concerned for their future. Staff from Save the Children told them we would rebuild with them and that we would return the next day to get started with the necessary safety tools and equipment. The following day, when the Save the Children team returned, the local community had cleared mountains of debris and were ready to start reconstruction and get transitional programming to get their children back into school. I was moved by the sheer resilience and determination I witnessed.

But, resilience and determination multiplies with support. I'm proud to say that the international community has joined together to provide what it can. It has been one year since Typhoon Haiyan hit, and Save the Children has reached nearly 800,000 children and adults with essential life-saving aid, recovery and rehabilitation support. We have distributed food and water; provided medicines and primary health services through our mobile health clinics; repaired classrooms, health facilities and water systems; and provided shelter, household and hygiene items to keep children safe.

Although children, families and communities are getting back on their feet, the needs on the ground are still immense. In some of the hardest hit areas, thousands of families continue to live in temporary shelters and are struggling to recover the livelihoods they once depended on. We led a consultation this September and children from the affected region told us that the greatest barrier to their recovery is low household income and the fact that their parents can't find work.

Save the Children is committed to helping the most vulnerable, which is often the poorest. We are currently working with communities to diversify the ways in which they make money and providing cash grants and skill development training to help recover livelihoods, fuel the local economy and support families to start their own businesses.

Albeit significant improvement and impact, this will not be enough. For the Philippines -- due to its geographic location -- future disasters are not only inevitable, but are also expected to intensify because of climate change. Save the Children's response is therefore to support recovery effort for Typhoon Haiyan, but to also help communities prepare, cope with and adapt for future disasters. This requires proper planning and policy change at the highest levels. And these are not just words; let me tell how this works.

With the goal of policy change in mind, Save the Children is working alongside key global partners and thought leaders on programming of livelihoods, shelter and Disaster Risk Reduction. In addition, we've been advocating for the Government of the Philippines to pass a law which will protect and prioritise children in future emergencies. This law is known as HB 5062. The need for a bill like this was identified as a result of extensive research that Save the Children did in the Yolanda-affected areas. We interviewed 124 children resulting in a report called: "After Yolanda: What Children Think, Need and Recommend." This report was presented to various members of Congress. Today, the bill has been filed and tomorrow, we plan for change.

However, again, like resilience and determination, change needs support. We're pleased to say that the tremendous amount of work that has been achieved is in large part due to the support we've received from generous Canadians. Canadians donated over $80 million to support the Typhoon Haiyan response. A generation of children thank you, but continue to need your support. Typhoon Haiyan devastated the lives of millions, but we know that through resilience and determination -- like that of the Typhoon Haiyan's affected population -- we can make immediate and lasting change for the children impacted by its destruction.