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Careless development models in wake of Yolanda

Six years after Typhoon Haiyan (called Supertyphoon Yolanda in the Philippines), battered East and Southeast Asia, Tacloban city in the Philippines is still picking up the pieces. In this Opinion Editorial for the Inquirer in the Philippines, SEI’s Jamie Kemsey calls for a transformation of current development models that focus on economic growth and short-term relief at the expense of long-term resilience and adaptation that will help communities better face disasters and reduce their future risks.

Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, Philippines. Photo: Oliver Cam

Jamie Kemsey / Published on 9 November 2019

On 8 November 2013, one of the strongest storms on record swept through the Pacific, leaving a broad scar of untold devastation in its wake. Supertyphoon Yolanda battered the Philippines, Taiwan, China and Vietnam, damaging more than 280,000 homes and leaving 1.9 million people homeless. The Philippines bore the brunt of the superstorm, with 6,300 people dead and destruction totaling $14 billion. And in the direct path of Yolanda was Tacloban, in Leyte, Eastern Visayas, which was almost entirely flattened.

Recovery efforts in Tacloban have been laudable, but six years later the city’s struggle to get back on its feet continues. Many citizens are still homeless, and resettlement efforts are creating new conflicts, with those being resettled in new areas north of the city now displacing farming communities that have worked their land for generations.

As Tacloban rebuilds, there are greater challenges and uncertainties yet to come. The effects of climate change are here: the last five years have been the warmest on record, and hotter days, higher seas and heightened disasters will become the norm in the years to come. The Paris Climate Agreement—the international community’s response to climate change—is a beacon of hope, but cannot be counted on to filter down to Tacloban and other urban and rural areas in danger.


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