Haiyan recovery involves real people

UNICEF Philippines photograph.

(UNICEF Philippines photograph)

Philippines (MNN) — A glance at the most recent Situation Reports from the United Nations for the Philippines reads like this:

*About 1,400 tents (20% of the total) had to be repaired or replaced in Guiuan following the passing of Tropical Depression Agaton (Lingling) in late January.

*A 4.8-magnitude earthquake struck Leyte (Region VIII). There are no reports of damage or casualties.

*Internally Displaced Persons in Tacloban City moved from evacuation centers to bunkhouses two weeks ago. However, more work is required to prepare the sites.

*An assessment mission in Bantayan Island (Region VII) showed that there are still immediate shelter requirements and a need for better early recovery coordination.

This is a mere glimpse of the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines squarely November 9, 2013. It revealed disaster upon disaster, and yet just 52% of the funding required in the Philippines has been met, despite a huge international effort to pool donations.

Why the disinterest? The international community is deluged with disaster reports all the time. That’s especially true of Syria, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Now, with the Olympic Games underway, there’s very little attention paid to the crisis in the Philippines.

(Photo couresy of ANM)

(Photo couresy of ANM)

That may be due, in part, to not having a face or a story to put to it. For Marlou Barredo, wife of Advancing Native Missions founder and President Bo Barredo, it got very personal. Marlou is a native of Tacloban, an area that took the brunt of Typhoon Haiyan’s wrath.

Shock upon seeing her hometown leveled turned to forward motion after Bo encouraged her to action. “’I think it’s about time for you to stop weeping and for you to acknowledge that you are the Esther of your people in such a time as this. You come from the island. You come from the Philippines, and those islands of Samar and Leyte. Those are Waray-Waray people, and you are one of them.’”

She told her story, and her heartfelt plea brought in a flood of supplies. Bo adds, “This is also in partnership with another ministry called ‘Gleaning for the World’ based in Lynchburg, Virginia. With this partnership, and with all of those donated food items and clothes, and blankets, and medicines, we were able to ship out 459 large boxes.”

They’ve also sent a couple of medical teams out to deal with the injuries that come in the wake of storms like this, and in the aftermath of clean-up. In fact, on Valentine’s Day, “There’s a big medical team doing their second or third medical operations in the city of Tacloban.”

Bo adds,  “Aside from the food distribution, there’s an ongoing repair of 53 homes and churches, and one of them is a Bible school.” Now, this story is starting to read like all the other disaster stories buried in a newscast.

Carlota Ursaig, 45-years-old, was thankful to be reunited with her 6 children after a tree landed on the house they had been taking shelter in. They gladly received food that an OM team had to spare. (Image, caption courtesy OM)

Carlota Ursaig, 45-years-old, was thankful to be reunited with her 6 children after a tree landed on the house they had been taking shelter in. They gladly received food that an OM team had to spare. (Image, caption courtesy OM)

Let’s put another face on it. Bo talked about a couple he met while in Tacloban holding pastor conferences. Not only did the attendees get a good meal, some supplies, and care from God’s Word: they also got hope. But this couple, Pastor Dante Lingo, and his wife, DeLor, stood out in his mind because of what they said. “’Thank you for helping us start a second life.’” The ruin faced by this family was complete: they “lost three of their four children, all under the age of 11. Not only had they lost their three children, they also lost their home, and they also lost their church.” But they were determined to continue their ministry, and with the respite they received at the conference, they could go on. Their story is similar to thousands across Haiyan’s footprint.

There are real people behind the collapsed buildings and rubble scattered island wide. Bo observes that while the scope of damage remains overwhelming in light of the time that’s passed, there is still time to respond. “We admit this is just a drop in the bucket, but if there are many drops in the bucket, that makes a river.”