Learning from Typhoon Haiyan

November 7, 2014
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Learning from Typhoon Haiyan:
Asian governments failing to respond to climate change – Oxfam

November 7, 2014 – Many countries in Asia, including Bangladesh, Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, should invest more in their governments’ capacity to protect their citizens given the region's vulnerability to climate change.

A year after super-typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, Oxfam reports that Asian governments are not prioritizing disaster risk reduction initiatives, despite projections that the region will suffer more from climate change in the future.

"Thanks to the generosity of the Canadian government and public, Oxfam was able to provide water, improve sanitation and hygiene and support livelihood recovery for hundreds of thousands of people who lost their homes and income in the typhoon,” said Julie Delahanty, Oxfam Canada's Executive Director. “But for the long term what is also needed is global action on climate change and support to build resilience for those most at risk from climate-related disasters."

One year since typhoon Haiyan struck, families continue to struggle to resume their livelihoods, with risks of deepening poverty in an already-poor region. Over one million coconut farming households and 200,000 fishing households have been affected, sectors characterized by already-subsistence level incomes.

Oxfam has worked across 32 municipalities since last November, investing US$42 million (of a US$65-million three-year plan) to help over 868,960 people with clean water supplies, community latrines, water pumps, cash vouchers for food and home repairs, fishing boat replacement and repairs, clearing coconut tree debris, and setting up sawmills to convert the debris into lumber for shelters.

Asia is the most disaster-prone region of the world, according to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). In 2013, 78 per cent of people killed by disasters lived in Asia.

Over the past 20 years, Asia has borne almost half the estimated global economic cost of all disasters, amounting to almost US$53 billion annually. Direct losses from disasters in the region significantly outpaced growth in GDP. Harvest losses alone related to flooding in Southeast Asia have an estimated annual value of US$1 billion.

“When governments fail to implement climate policies well, the cards are stacked against poor people. In Asia, it is small food producers who often live in harm’s way. They have no savings or assets to tide them over after a disaster. It is they who will lose in the fight against climate change,” stated Snehal Soneji, Oxfam Country Director in Bangladesh.

If the population’s vulnerability that Haiyan rendered so starkly visible is not addressed, typhoon-affected communities will remain in harm’s way – exposed to future disasters and deeper poverty.

Asia is home to two-thirds of the world’s food-insecure population who, ironically, are mostly small-scale food producers – farmers and fisherfolk. Sea-level rise, saltwater intrusion and flooding are now a constant threat for farmers along thousands of miles of coastline, potentially affecting some 3.5 to 5 million people in Asia. Adverse effects on food production are rapidly changing what food is available and whether government safety nets are inadequate.

“Rich countries need to support Asia’s developing countries to enable them to protect their citizens against climate disasters. There is a unique opportunity to remember the devastation of Haiyan, and to pledge to the Green Climate Fund (GCF). US$15 billion in pledges by the Peru meeting, with a 50:50 balance between climate change adaptation and mitigation, would be a fitting tribute,” concluded Soneji.

In the face of predictions of more extreme weather, Asian governments and international donor governments are responsible to protect citizens by following through on their pledges and scaling up current programs that help ensure resilience to climate-related risks.

For more information contact:

Ottawa: Kristen Ostling,
New York: Sue Rooks,
Philippines: Norly Mercado,

Notes to editors:

Oxfam reports on Haiyan are available for download as follows:

In the Shadow of the Storm: Getting Recovery Right One Year on from Typhoon Haiyan: https://oxf.am/tz5

Can’t Afford to Wait: Why Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation plans in Asia are still failing millions of people:  https://oxf.am/tzT


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