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New home brings new lease on life after Typhoon Haiyan

Rebuilding Mr Tabom's home was a challenge in disability-inclusive design but it changed the way he interacts with the world.

Thursday November 5, 2015

Mr Tabom in his new house
Mr Tabom and his wife use the ramp in their new home. Photos: Australian Red Cross/Wesley Pryor

Before his stroke in 2008, Mr Tabom was a well-known, active member of his neighbourhood. Afterwards, he no longer felt safe to walk and stayed at home. By the time Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines in November 2013 he rarely left his bed, even for baths.  

On the night the typhoon swept through Leyte, Mr Tabom's family took refuge in a neighbour's house. This saved their lives, although the intense winds damaged their small tin-and-wood house beyond repair.  

Mr Tabom's home was one of more than 65,000 houses to be repaired or rebuilt with Red Cross assistance in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. The majority of these homes required a fairly simple assistance package: corrugated iron roofing sheets and a cash grant to purchase timber and nails. But when the Red Cross team spoke with Mr Tabom's family, they saw an opportunity to do more than simply replace what was lost.  

The team helped Mr Tabom and his wife to design a new home that was right for their needs. This posed a few design challenges. The house had to be on stilts as the area frequently flooded when it rained, however Mr Tabom could not climb the steps required to enter or leave the house.  

Red Cross is committed to working with people with disability before, during and after disasters; so that their needs and ideas can inform planning, preparation and recovery.

The Haiyan recovery team was trained in disability inclusion, which helped them to build a relationship with Mr Tabom and his family, and ask the right questions to find a housing solution.  

When they built the new house - a solid construction with wind-resistant roofing - they added a long ramp which Mr Tabom can use easily. It takes him to the landing, a comfortable spot where he can sit in a chair and enjoy the breeze. A simple system of ropes lets him use the toilet, another new feature for the house.

These structural adjustments gave Mr Tabom the chance to reconnect with the outside world.  

"Now I sit on the landing some days when it is hot," he says. 'I get some air and see what my neighbours are doing."  

Mrs Tabom reports that her  husband is now out of bed and takes regular baths. "I am happy because he takes better care of himself now that he goes outside and sees our neighbours," she laughs.  

For Red Cross aid worker Catherine Gearing, working with Mr Tabom reinforced the importance of disability inclusion in disaster recovery.  

"We plan to build houses but our ultimate aim is to improve people's lives," she says. "For Mr Tabom, this was about reconnecting him to the community he lives in."  

How Red Cross helped after Typhoon Haiyan

  • 1.3 million people reached with emergency relief 
  • 65,000 houses repaired or rebuilt
  • 150,000 people received emergency cash grants
  • 1,000 young people enrolled in vocational skills training
  • 64 health facilities repaired or rehabilitated  


Read Maricel's story:
Choosing between her children's education or putting a roof over their heads

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