2 December 2013
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference by Regional Head of United Nations Development Programme

 

on Relief and Reconstruction Efforts in Philippines

 


United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had started operating a cash-for-work emergency employment scheme in the typhoon-hit Philippines to bridge two phases — humanitarian relief and reconstruction, a regional head of that agency said at a Headquarters press conference today.


“The recovery process is aimed at helping people return to normalcy by putting children back to school, getting men and women jobs, reopening hospitals and restarting provision of public services,” said Haoliang Xu, Assistant Administrator and Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific.


He began his briefing by saying that the humanitarian relief response for the survivors of super-typhoon Haiyan remained the priority for the United Nations system, which had collaborated with Governments to provide rice, high-energy biscuits and other foods to 3 million people.  Other responses included vaccinating 6,000 children for such diseases as measles and polio, providing rice and corn seeds for the planting season under way, and recruiting thousands of people in the cash-for-work scheme and other short-term employment.


As part of that larger effort, UNDP’s aim was to help build a resilient community capable of withstanding future super-storms, he said.  The cash-for-work scheme, which started in “week 3” of the disaster response, would remove debris from aid distribution routes, bring much-needed income to affected families, inject money into local economies, and reduce the risk of diseases from inadequate waste disposal.  Currently 345 workers were involved and that number was expected to increase to 500 by tomorrow, with the goal of employing 10,000 people by year-end.  The workers received the equivalent of $6 per day, were paid weekly, and were allowed to work for 15 days.  They were provided protective gear and were vaccinated to meet labour standards. 


In addition, UNDP was providing assistance for small businesses, including grants for solar and wind energy generation, he said.  It also conducted workshops for carpenters to recycle timber into housing materials.  


On funding, he noted that UNDP had approximately $10 million in early recovery response, including $3.5 million from Japan and $1.5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund, known as CERF.  But given the scale of the disaster, an additional $38 million was needed over the next 12 months.


The Resident Coordinator on the ground was helping to build resilient communities through such measures as putting in place an early warning system, building evacuation centres, educating children about disaster risks, and improving access to renewable energy.  “The road to recovery should be the road sustainability,” he said.


To a question about possible outbreak of dengue fever and cholera, he said 184 medical teams on the ground would make a significant difference in fighting those diseases. 


Asked if bringing back tourists would support jobs, he said transportation remained limited in areas like Tacloban City, and it was not practical for a large number of tourists to go there at this time.


On preparedness, he said that the Philippines was no stranger to disasters, experiencing some 25 storms each year. But Haiyan had been bigger than anticipated.  The whole international community responded heroically and effectively.  In week 3, relief efforts were already in full swing, and UNDP was able to start its early recovery support by day 20.  With 14.4 million affected, the needs were overwhelming, with preparedness a critical issue.


Concerning UNDP’s presence, he said the country office had 30-plus people, and it had not reached remote areas.  UNDP was a small part of the response, and the Government had to lead.  A lot of efforts were under way, with the World Bank offering $980 million and the Asian Development Bank providing $500 million in recovery and reconstruction financing.  A meeting of the donor community in mid-December was aimed at supporting the Government’s recovery and reconstruction plan, which was due out soon.


Maintaining a focus on the situation in the Philippines in response to a point made by a correspondent who noted that debris still remained in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, long after the disaster there, he said he had assembled best experts with experience in the aftermath of an earthquake in Aceh, Indonesia.  The workers were not just removing debris; they were also dealing with environmental sustainability issues, including ways to recycle debris and use fallen coconuts trees as building materials.  


On resettlement, he said sensitive policy issues would be addressed in the framework of the overall recovery and reconstruction plan.


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For information media • not an official record