Four years after Haiyan, the Philippines is still facing climate change impacts
Typhoon Haiyan, locally known as Yolanda, has become a name that’s hard to forget. The super typhoon wiped out homes, killed more than 6,000 people, and devastated agricultural lands leaving those who survived homeless and without any source of income. But for the people who witnessed its wrath, the only way to move forward was to pick up the pieces and rise.
It has been four years since the onslaught of the super typhoon and according to climate experts, “Haiyan is the new normal.” I’ve talked to many people in the province of Leyte affected by the disaster. Many of them said they were used to typhoons prior to experiencing Haiyan’s merciless strength. So when they experienced Haiyan, they were totally caught by surprise; they said that it was their first time being hit by such unimaginable force of nature.
According to the 2016 World Risk Index, the Philippines is now the third most disaster-prone country after Tonga and Vanuatu. After Haiyan, the country suffered from relatively strong typhoons, such as Hagupit in 2014, Koppu and Melor in 2015, and Sarika and Haima in 2016. These disasters caused displacement, destruction of shelter and infrastructures, and loss of livelihoods and casualties.
Humanitarian actors including CARE and the Philippine Government have put emphasis on disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation to help vulnerable communities prepare, respond and recover. Currently, CARE is partnering with different civil society organizations, community associations and government agencies to identify risks in communities and ways to adapt to the changing climate.
Evidently, because of the sudden change of temperature and weather in some places in the Philippines, livelihoods of the people are instantly affected. For instance, seaweed producers, who also suffered from Haiyan, in the Iloilo province were heavily affected by the recent El Niño which caused “Ice-ice disease” to the seaweed because of the warmer seawater. Ice-ice is caused when changes in salinity, ocean temperature and light intensity cause stress to seaweed and make them brittle.
These weather disturbances hamper the people’s recovery process of poor and vulnerable communities, especially women and girls. People in the affected communities said that they feel tired of restarting when disasters have repeatedly destroyed their crops, houses and other livelihood assets.
Communities are now actively engaged in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation activities to address these concerns, but the challenge is being able to reach and continuously capacitate more communities in the Philippines.
As the COP23 happens in Germany, it is important for national leaders to fully commit to the Paris Agreement and deliver on their promises. Poor communities have started experiencing the impact of the changing climate. Drought, typhoons and flooding have become more intense and frequent. It is important to continuously advocate for climate change mitigation and advocacy must be cascaded down to the communities.