A new beginning from cash and coconuts
Above: Irene received 5,000 pesos through a Red Cross cash grants scheme, after her home was destroyed.
Irene's family was one of 75,000 households to receive a cash grant of 5,000 pesos (AUD 123) from Red Cross. They desperately needed the money: the typhoon had battered down their house in Leyte, claimed the lives of 17 of their relatives and left them living under a tarpaulin on the beach.
Irene used some of the grant to set up a roadside stall selling fresh coconut juice - a business that has now earned her 50,000 pesos, which she will use to expand the business, fix up the house and save for her children's education.
"I'm very grateful to the Red Cross because its help means our lives are going better than in the past, and I can also help give income to other people because I can employ staff."
Red Cross is now distributing further grants to 12,000 households that are still living in extreme poverty, and to people with disabilities.
Healthcare in the aftermath
Above: Dr Nick Williams and his team treated 2,275 people who needed emergency medical assistance, setting up a makeshift hospital in a tent in the village of Maya.
When health aid worker Dr Nick Williams arrived in the coastal village of Maya in the central Philippines, it was in ruins. "Huts lay flattened. The only health facility was roofless and uninhabitable," reports Nick "Locals wandered amongst tangled debris holding signs pleading 'HELP ME'."
Nick was the Australian representative of an emergency response unit supported by Japanese Red Cross; one of several Red Cross health teams that treated over 20,000 people across the central Philippines.
Huddled under a cluster of dripping umbrellas, Nick examined his first 30 patients. Over the next two days he drove with Wilinda and Flora - two cheerful Red Cross volunteer nurses - to outlying districts to see people who urgently needed medical care. "We held four mobile clinics and saw 174 patients. There were a lot of injuries, lacerations that had become infected, as well as respiratory problems that needed urgent treatment," says Nick.
A large tent became the area's new emergency hospital, with crowds of injured and sick people waiting outside. Nick recalls one eight-year old boy, Fernando,* who walked into the clinic tent frightened and in pain, with an elbow that had been dislocated for nearly two weeks.
Flora comforted the boy while Nick re-set his elbow. "It was a relatively simple procedure but one that if left untreated would have left Fernando disabled with a useless arm for life," Nick says. Afterwards, Fernando's mother said tearfully to Flora, "Thank you all for saving my son's arm."
Over the next four weeks, Nick and his health care team saw 2,275 patients. Some had life-threatening complaints, while others like Fernando needed treatment for simple injuries or chronic conditions which, left untreated, could have resulted in serious illness or death. It was medical treatment that, due to cost and availability, many would not have received.
As the benefits of basic healthcare rippled across the communities, so did hope and with it, an outpouring of gratitude. "Three weeks after we started, there were new signs going up. They said 'THANK YOU'"
* Name changed to protect the wellbeing of the child and his family.
The long road to recovery
Above: Australian psychologist Sarah Miller offered counselling to children and adults who were showing signs of trauma.
Psychosocial support is an important part of Red Cross work. This involves providing immediate counselling support to people experiencing trauma, and equipping community members to support one another through their recovery. Australian psychologist Sarah Miller was sent to Samar twice after Haiyan to set up a psychosocial support program with Philippine Red Cross.
On her second visit, Sarah noted that the program had stalled, as resources were diverted into other aspects of disaster recovery. Correspondingly, cases of trauma and depression were on the increase.
Sarah and her colleagues ramped up the program again: extending training to local health workers, offering stress management support to people involved in the relief effort, and mentoring local Red Cross staff to become psychosocial support trainers in their own right.
"People go through various phases after a disaster. First there's the heroic phase where they're rescuing each other, then the honeymoon phase where they're proud they have survived, and then at about the six or seven month point, the disillusionment phase starts. Agencies leave, people feel like they can't cope on their own, they start worrying about the next disaster."
Please donate to our disaster relief and recovery work and provide valuable support to our emergency services staff and volunteers as they prepare, respond and provide support to communities during and after disasters. You will know your donation has made an important contribution to our work whenever you see a Red Cross Emergency Services team in action.