TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines – Tens of thousands of jobs are being created for survivors of super typhoon Yolanda in this city and other parts of the Visayas by paying them to clear mountains of garbage in ruined cities and towns as well as farms.
UN agencies are spearheading a “cash-for-work” program which, they hope, would provide a triple-boost to communities destroyed by super typhoon “Haiyan” (locally named “Yolanda”), with lifting morale as vital as cleaning up and helping economies.
“This is not only important to help normalize the economy, but working gives a sense of dignity back in their lives,” said Tim Walsh, leader of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) team deployed to this worst-hit city and nearby areas.
The United Nations, working in partnership with the Philippine government, is hoping to create at least 200,000 jobs that could last for up to three years.
Walsh said their immediate task was to help clear the mountains of rotting garbage and debris, a job which is necessary to allow for faster transport of aid and delivery of other essential services.
Much of the debris will be recycled.
Yolanda, the most powerful typhoon ever recorded to have hit land, slashed across mostly poor Visayas islands, killing more than 7,500 people and destroying the houses of some four million people.
Giant storm surges generated by the typhoon were more destructive than the winds, galloping for more than one kilometer (0.6 miles) inland on the islands of Leyte and Samar.
Dozens of coastal communities were obliterated, as the water crushed homes, fishing boats, vehicles, electrical posts and virtually every other piece of urban infrastructure.
Vast stretches of coastal rice farms were also contaminated and their irrigation channels destroyed, while the wind tore down millions of coconut trees that were a mainstay of the already extremely poor islands.
Leslie Wright, a spokeswoman for the UNDP team in Tacloban, said the cash-for-work program was similar to an effort in Indonesia’s Aceh region after one of the world’s most devastating tsunamis killed 170,000 people there in 2004.
“Some of the things we are seeing that are comparable to Aceh include the consistency of the debris – like the wood, the metal, rock and concrete, aside from the organic waste and the bodies still being extracted,” she said.
The volunteer workers are being paid between 250 and 500 pesos (5-10 dollars) a day to haul the debris to collection points, where trucks pick them up and transport them to temporary landfills outside the city for sorting.
“The wood and timber we can refurbish, which we did in Aceh, where we used them to rebuild schools and houses, while the concrete we used for roads,” Wright said.
“We re-used as much material as we could.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization is looking to set up similar cash-for-work program in agricultural areas, paying farmers and others in the community to clear their land and desilt irrigation canals.
It said its program will cover more than 150,000 hectares (370,000 acres) and 80 kilometers (50 miles) of communal irrigation canals that need to be cleaned, warning upcoming harvests are at dire risk without quick action. (Manila Bulletin)