Bunkhouses help less than 1% of Haiyan's homeless
MANILA, Philippines – The government's bunkhouses have helped less than 1% of homeless Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors, statistics show 100 days after the disaster displaced more than 900,000 families.
In a fact sheet prepared on Sunday, February 16, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said 1,455 displaced families have moved into 60 completed bunkhouses in Leyte, Eastern Samar, and Samar.
These households comprise around 0.16% of the 918,261 families displaced by Yolanda across the Philippines.
In Eastern Visayas, these families make up 0.52% of the 280,968 displaced.
Roderick Guisadio, an officer under the DSWD's disaster response unit, told Rappler that displaced families include those whose houses got totally damaged because of Yolanda, as well as some whose houses sustained partial damage.
The DSWD said at least 518,878 houses got totally damaged. Explaining the difference between totally damaged houses and displaced families, Guisadio said more than one family lives in many of these houses.
Before these statistics pointed to a shortage, aid groups already criticized the government's bunkhouses as poorly constructed. (READ: Erring Haiyan contractors off the hook?)
Later, Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo Lacson suggested doing away with these types of shelter altogether. “We will just give construction materials to the people who would rather repair transition shelters,” Lacson said in a briefing last January 27.
While aware of Lacson's suggestion, Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr, chair of the Senate public works committee, criticized the DSWD for the delay in moving homeless families into bunkhouses. (Watch more in the video below)
On Thursday, February 13, Marcos estimated that only 20% of homeless Yolanda survivors have been moved into these shelters.
'Will we make them wait?'
The senator said the problem lies in the DSWD's “processing” of residents. He called it a “bureaucratic process.”
Thelsa Biolena, DSWD director for disaster risk reduction and response operations, said her agency allows typhoon survivors to transfer to bunkhouses based on a set of criteria.
In a Senate hearing last February 6, Biolena said the basic criteria include the following:
With an income “below the food threshold of the region,” which is P5,000; and
With “seriously ill or sick family members, with pregnant or lactating mothers, with children below 12 years old, single parent-led or child-led”
Biolena said the DSWD made the following additional qualifications:
Without housing assistance from other government agencies, non-governmental organizations, or individuals;
With household heads “incapacitated as a result of the disaster”;
With heads who “are seriously ill, incapacitated to work, or differently abled” and cannot provide for the family's needs; and
With elderly heads “not receiving social pensions or other kinds of retirement pensions”
Marcos said that given these criteria, it's “not surprising” that only few families have moved to bunkhouses. The senator told Biolena, “Pag-aantayin ba natin sila?” (Will we make them wait?)
More problems linger
In turn, Biolena told him the DSWD is “now fast-tracking the identifying of these families, and limiting the criteria that we have to use.” She said the agency is also “going to beef up the manpower requirements in terms of going to the municipalities and validating.”
Even if all 222 bunkhouses get occupied, however, this number of shelters can help only around 2,664 families, or 0.29% of displaced survivors. This is the case if each bunkhouse has 12 units each, as recommended.
Beyond bunkhouses, other problems linger. The survivors' need for stable jobs also poses a challenge.
Still living in a shanty, 39-year-old Rina Etang appealed to the President to help survivors like her in starting a business. (Watch Rappler's video report below)
“Huge needs” remain 100 days after Yolanda, the United Nations said. – Rappler.com