Six months after super typhoon Haiyan, Tacloban is starting to look like a city once more. Apart from clusters of sad-looking tents along a road from the airport and the rusting hulks of half-a-dozen ships swept ashore, most of the moving images of the ty
The streets are lit at night and are busy with traffic. Hospitals, hotels, malls and restaurants have reopened. But dig deeper and there is still a palpable sense of despair among the people. No longer for food or water, but for houses and jobs. As aid agencies begin scaling down their operations, residents are becoming desperate for employment and permanent shelter, without which, their road to normalcy will be hard.
Last month, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) stopped distributing food in Samar, one of the provinces that bore the brunt of Haiyan’s fury, and the World Food Programme may leave in June.
For Tacloban Vice-Mayor Sambo Yaokasin, scaling down on relief distribution should help to heave the local population out of the tents and into the workplace. “We wouldn’t want to encourage them into thinking that it’s easier to queue for three hours for relief than working for eight hours at an office,” he said.
Joan Olayol, 38, a housewife, agrees. “I really want a job. I don’t want relief. My husband doesn’t have a job. I have three children, and I’m pregnant. So, what my husband and I really need is a job,” she said.
It is a common refrain you will hear in Tacloban: We want jobs. But the local government does not have the budget for more employees and the national government does not have any comprehensive re-employment programme. It has largely relinquished that responsibility to organisations like the ICRC, which has been giving cash, and non-cash grants and livelihood training to some 30,000 households.
The businessmen of Tacloban are feeling neglected. “To be honest, there is so much help for the poor, but only a few are helping the business sector. Yet, it’s the business sector that will turn around the economy and create jobs,” said Yaokasin, whose family owns a car dealership.