Almost 15 million people have been affected by super typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) which hit nine regions of the Philippines in November 2013 displacing 4 million people.
In the immediate aftermath of the Typhoon UNDP and its partners launched an Early Recovery Programme, which began with emergency employment cash-for-work in debris and waste removal in the most affected areas.
Relief has continued and there have been some amazing stories of resilience and recovery. One such story is noted by the Inquirer.net. It reports that as of 25th April 2014 more than 200 “houses” have been erected for Jehovah’s Witnesses following typhoon Yolanda. The box like shelters have been built by volunteer labor apparently under the direction of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The “houses” have been erected very quickly as part of a quick build program by a team of about 8 volunteer JW construction workers.
The article says
“On March 26, they worked for eight to 10 hours erecting bars, fabricating wall panels and screws and drilling anchor bolt holes despite the rain. The next day, they worked from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. installing the metal roof, doors, windows, electrical wiring and plumbing fixtures. On the fifth day, they were painting the house.”
Along with Witnesses from all over the Philippines, the workers have come from six countries temporarily leaving “their jobs to travel to Samar and Leyte at their own expense to help in rebuilding the houses.”
What is not indicated is whether the Governing Body has sanctioned reimbursement of any of the travel costs or loss of earnings or whether they have contributed in any way financially to this work.
Rebuilding shelters and Kingdom Halls in a quick build scheme, would seem the kind even Christian response. It is surprising that the Inquirer.net in celebrating this effort has not asked why Jehovah’s Witnesses have only shown favour towards a few fellow witnesses when numerous people lost their homes, their livelihoods and their relatives? They could also have asked what back up was given to this team of volunteer workers by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as the report states that they could not find accommodation, during their working visit?
The article does not highlight other relief efforts, such as Caritas (a Catholic charity) who as part of a 510 partner organisational response has “combined relief efforts to reach over half a million people with shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation, essential living supplies and the means to generate income.”
Similarly “USAID/OFDA-funded emergency shelter and settlements activities have assisted approximately 30,000 households to date. In addition, partners have completed site assessments and beneficiary identification for USAID/OFDA-funded transitional shelter and settlements activities to assist more than 4,000 households in Tacloban city, Leyte Province. USAID/OFDA will continue to monitor overall shelter sector needs in addition to monitoring USAID/OFDA-funded project activities.”
In contrast to the rebuilding of a few homes by and for Jehovah’s Witnesses, these other relief efforts are for all that were effected by this devastating typhoon. Again in contrast to Jehovah’s Witnesses these organisations are accountable and document the money allocated and spent. The volunteer labor force from these International organisations are usually professionally organised and supported by accommodation and travel costs.
Inquirer.net Yolanda homes up in 5 days in Leyte Link
Map of response by 501 relief organizations (PDF) Link
UNDP Response to typhoon Yolanda Link
Photo Credit Inquirer.net