An Update from the Philippines

Members from nearby communities line up outside a CARD office to ask for help in searching for loved ones. (photo courtesy of CARD)

Two of our microfinance allies, CARD and NWTF, operate in the provinces that were hardest hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

CARD reports that nearly 60 percent of their 290,000 clients in Leyte and Samar were affected by the storm. More than a week after the typhoon, its team is still providing relief assistance in these two provinces as transportation and infrastructure challenges continue to hinder the distribution of goods from outside these areas. CARD’s insurance unit has processed more than 20,000 claims for the loss of life and homes, and will start offering emergency and housing loans to clients and counseling to both clients and staff. Unfortunately, one CARD loan officer and her daughter were killed in the storm.

NWTF reports that about 50,000 clients in 44 branches in Leyte were affected. Their branches in Tacloban and Palo were severely damaged, and they had to evacuate their staff at the height of the storm. But they have since sent their team, led by senior managers from the head office, back to Leyte to contact clients, distribute relief goods and help affected staff members. NWTF plans to restructure loans and release bridge loans to affected clients so that they can rebuild their businesses to get people back on their feet at the soonest possible time. Sadly, one staff member remains missing.

Although the outpouring of aid from the international community has been encouraging, the challenge of effectively distributing relief goods should not be taken lightly. A significant portion of all aid given in previous disasters was left wasted in warehouses for lack of reliable distribution systems. The ability to ensure that aid gets into the hands of the victims should not be taken for granted. In addition to our microfinance allies, below is a list of relief organizations with strong distribution networks in the central part of the country. We urge you to consider these channels as you continue to support the relief efforts.

Although the immediate need for water, food, shelter and medicine remains acute, especially in the province of Leyte, we will soon face the daunting challenge of rebuilding lost communities and displaced lives. Grameen Foundation has been involved in the rebuilding efforts in two of the worst disasters in recent history: the 2004 Tsunami in South and Southeast Asia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti (PDF). While every disaster brings unique challenges and it is still too soon to assess the full impact of Typhoon Haiyan, we believe that lessons from these previous tragedies can inform rebuilding efforts in the Philippines

One valuable lesson is the role that microfinance institutions can play in the recovery. Organizations like CARD and NWTF have built up networks and earned the trust of poor people – vital assets that enable them to respond quickly in times of crisis. The financial tools they provide are important safety nets for the poor that help them to recover much faster and avoid sinking even deeper into poverty.

As the recovery and rebuilding efforts continue, we will continue to provide updates from our team in Manila and the staff of CARD and NWTF.