Typhoon Yolanda adds to burden of farmers, fishers: Oxfam

Manila, Philippines (10 November 2013) – 2013 is turning out to be a year of upheaval for the Philippines. Typhoon Yolanda is projected to cost the country billions of pesos in damages to properties, infrastructure and livelihoods.

Yolanda comes on the heels of a devastating earthquake and a storm that wiped out rice harvests worth millions of pesos last October, and a deadly standoff between the military and rebel forces that left hundreds dead and thousands homeless in September.

“These disasters compound the already difficult lives of poor people and threaten to entrench them in social inequality which they have been mired in for decades,” said Marie Madamba-Nuñez, spokesperson for Oxfam in the Philippines.

“With no assets, little savings and no steady incomes, the Philippines’ poorest people are small farmers and fishers whose livelihoods cannot withstand a disaster,” she said.

“Economic solutions to root out poverty and inequality must be paired with minimising the risk of poor communities to the vagaries of weather and climate change,” she said

For example, Yolanda’s path crossed mostly agricultural communities in Eastern Visayas, where one in every three persons is considered poor.

According to the government’s Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, Eastern Visayas is primarily an agricultural region with approximately 31% or 723,048 hectares of its total land area considered agricultural land.

Agriculture, fisheries, and the forestry sector contributed 20.5% to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs 19% of the region’s total population in 2011. Eastern Visayas contributed 2.56% of the country’s GDP, also in 2011.

Yolanda is threatening to overwhelm the country’s state and non-state humanitarian organizations, already stretched from responding to the previous disasters.

“We call on humanitarian players to coordinate life-saving and relief efforts given the possible scale of Yolanda’s impact,” said Nuñez.

Oxfam and partner, Humanitarian Response Consortium, have dispatched a team of experts on the ground to assess the water, public health and sanitation conditions in Bohol, and then later today to Northern Cebu, Northern and Eastern Samar and Leyte.

Ranked the “world’s 3rd highest disaster risk country” according to the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), the Philippines will continue to face multiple and possibly simultaneously occurring emergencies because of its high incidence of poverty and exposure to natural hazards.

A general shot shows fallen trees and destroyed houses in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban, eastern island of Leyte on November 9, 2013. (AFP Photo / Noel Celis)