Written by Clarinda L. Berja.

Restoring employment and the livelihoods of people in the community is a vital component of post-disaster reconstruction. Yet, this process often takes longer for people in poverty. Typhoon Yolanda (known internationally as Haiyan) struck the Philippines in November 2013, and one of the most severely affected provinces was Leyte. Livelihood vulnerability is expected since poverty is widespread in Leyte. Recent estimates of the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) revealed poverty has gotten worse in the province. Poverty has increased from 40 percent in 2012 to 47 percent in 2015. At the national level however, poverty is declining; from 28 percent in 2012 to 26 percent in 2015.

While most of those affected by the typhoon reported they received assistance from government, foreign and local organizations, only 21 percent mentioned that they received “aid” (financial assistance) or training that would help them re-establish their livelihood.

This paper examines livelihood vulnerability as a consequence of disaster, but also looks into the vulnerability of people’s existing socio-economic realities. It also describes external aid and community support, which are deemed crucial in reducing the detrimental impact of disaster on people’s lives.  It operates under the assumption that adaptation and resilience measures of livelihood may not be effective in coping with disaster without assessing and identifying the vulnerability of people’s existing socio-economic reality.

The University of the Philippines, with support from the University of Nottingham, conducted a survey of 800 households in selected communities of Palo, Tanauan and Tacloban City from 2015-2017. Data about the aid received, recovery, resilience and community support, and employment and livelihood were gathered to identify strategies for poverty alleviation in the wake of a disaster. This paper discusses the partial results of the 2017 survey on poverty alleviation in the wake of Yolanda.

Sources of Family Income and Livelihood

Educational attainment is generally low. About 28 percent reported that they only reached elementary level while 45 percent had reached high school level.

More than half (53 percent) of the survey respondents reported that they are unemployed. 65 percent of females are unemployed compared to only 18 percent of males. Most of them are engaged in elementary occupations, many are working as pedicab drivers, food vendors, manicurists, construction labourers and house helpers.

A large majority (83 percent) earn less than 10,000 pesos per month. For an average household of five people, per capita income would be 2,000 pesos, or roughly 40 US dollars per month.

Based on the household data, the percentage of people deemed dependant in each dwelling equals 57.2. As expected, however, these are mostly children; child dependency is 52.1 while old dependency is 5.1. There is higher female dependency (62.4) than male (52.4).

Livelihood Assistance in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda

Survey results reveal that 91 percent of the respondents reported that Typhoon Yolanda affected their main source of livelihood. When asked to assess their current livelihood, 45 percent mentioned that it is worse than before the disaster.

While most of those affected by the typhoon reported they received assistance from government, foreign and local organizations, only 21 percent mentioned that they received either “aid” (financial assistance) or training that would help them re-establish their livelihood. When asked which were the top three organizations that helped them the most, they answered – International NGOs (88 percent), national government (54 percent) and local government (30 percent). About 31 percent of them mentioned that they had not received external help and that their own family resources help them re-establish their livelihood.

A quarter of the respondents (26 percent) own a micro-enterprise. These are mostly “sari-sari” or small variety home based stores. Other enterprises that were mentioned include small canteens, tailoring and barbershops. A majority of them (66 percent) drew their initial capital from personal savings or loans from relatives.  They perceive that they have adequate knowledge to manage their business but they mentioned they need more training in financial management (42 percent) and marketing (26 percent).

Community Support and Building Resiliency

A majority mentioned that the community could have been more helpful in the aftermath of the disaster. However, after the disaster, 67 percent drew support from their community through personal loans, help with baby-sitting while they were at work, while 17 percent reported there were organisations that help people in the community to have a regular source of livelihood.

Interestingly, their perceived resiliency increased. Before Yolanda, 67 percent perceived themselves as disaster resilient. After Yolanda, the proportion of those who consider themselves as disaster resilient increased to 76 percent. About 69 percent feel more confident to face another disaster, after the Yolanda experience.

Although the survey results revealed that a majority drew support from their own community for their livelihood, the earnings derived from it are too small to support a decent life for their family.  Questions about the sustainability of their livelihood as well as its vulnerability to another natural hazard or shock must be considered.

Previous experiences have demonstrated that livelihood-centred approach to disaster risk reduction (DRR) provides people with new opportunities and enhanced ways of earning a living, and that community support is key to make it sustainable. Those in the most affected areas or the urban poor communities of Tacloban as well as the depressed communities in Tanauan and Palo would certainly benefit form livelihood assistance that would introduce people to other ways of making a living other than putting up a “sari-sari” store. Providing them with new knowledge and opportunities would consequently decrease livelihood vulnerability for their communities, and increase the changes of building back better after Yolanda.

Clarinda L. Berja is an Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines, Manila. Her work focuses on generating and analysing survey data on livelihood and poverty, as well as methodologies in disaster research. This article forms part of the IAPS Dialogue edition entitled ‘Yolanda: Building Back Better,’ ran in conjunction with the ESRC/DFID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research’ project entitled ‘Poverty Alleviation in the Wake of Typhoon Yolanda.’ Image credit: CC Dvidshub/Flickr.

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