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USAID unveils recovery projects in ‘Yolanda’ areas

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) formally unveiled its reconstruction and recovery activities in areas severely affected by typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year.

This upgraded US government support program to help the people of the Philippines respond to and recover from the devastating effects of the killer storm will cost around $142.5 million (P6.2-billion), according to the US Embassy in Manila.

USAID Acting Assistant Administrator for Asia Denise Rollins personally traveled to the country this week to visit program sites and to engage with local leaders and families that represent the wide scope of USAID’s work, from government officials, to business and community pioneers, to survivors of typhoon Yolanda.

“Her visit reinforces the US government’s commitment to the Partnership for Growth–a bilateral agreement with the government of the Philippines to achieve broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth in the country,” the US embassy said.

In Leyte, Rollins, accompanied by USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria D. Steele, led the launching of the US Embassy Manila’s USAID Rebuild program. To be implemented in partnership with the Philippines government, the program focuses on restoring access to education, health services and livelihood activities, and providing technical assistance to the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery.

Part of the project is the construction of a US-funded $480,000 (around P21-million) school building with eight classrooms that will be undertaken in San Fernando Central School.

Also included in Rebuild’s education component is providing teaching kits and funding the construction of 165 fully-furnished classrooms throughout the province. The embassy said this will be implemented in coordination with the Department of Education (DepEd) to address the need for permanent school buildings in Yolanda-affected areas.

USAID will also work with the Department of Health to construct and rehabilitate 10 health facilities in the province. This will include the provision of vital equipment and supplies to address the most critical medical needs of the affected population, the US embassy said.

Furthermore, the US government is introducing climate-adaptive technologies to farmers and fisherfolk, which will enable them to pursue more lucrative and sustainable livelihood opportunities. This will be complemented by production support, farming and post-harvest equipment, and support facilities such as trading centers, boat landings, market buildings, warehouses and solar dryers, according to the embassy.

Working with the chambers of commerce and industry of Leyte and Eastern Visayas, the US government will reestablish common service facilities and equipment, provide training on alternative livelihood and entrepreneurship, and improve product development and market linkage to support small and medium enterprises and industry associations.

Rollins also inaugurated the first two of the 1,000 sari-sari stores that will be constructed and rehabilitated by the US government and American firms, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. These partners, the US embassy said, will provide inventory and train store owners on basic store management. This initiative is expected to help restore livelihood and help stabilize the supply and prices of basic consumer goods in typhoon-devastated communities.

Rollins also witnessed the signing of a USAID-supported twinning agreement on disaster risk reduction and management between the Albay Public Safety and Management Office and the provincial government of Leyte.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the two provinces will share knowledge and expertise, and implement activities such as technical training and sharing of innovative technologies and approaches, scenario drills and peer reviews of existing plans and activities. USAID’s Water Security for Resilient Economic Growth and Stability (Be Secure) Project is facilitating the twinning. In addition, Be Secure is working to repair and rehabilitate damaged water systems in Leyte.

In Tacloban, Rolllins visited the Department of Health Regional Health Office VIII, where she commended the dedication of the health service providers during and after typhoon Yolanda.

The US government provided solar refrigerators to the Tacloban City Main Health Center immediately after Yolanda to ensure that the potency of vaccines for children is maintained despite the absence of a reliable source of electricity, according the the US embassy.

Six solar refrigerators were distributed to selected public health facilities in Tacloban City and the similarly affected municipalities of Palo and Tanauan, Leyte, including the Tacloban City Main Health Center, it added.

“The US government is committed to help restore normalcy in the lives of the affected families,” said Rolllins in a statement issued by the US embassy. “We will continue our work with our GPH partners to help the province build back better, to be more resilient totr future disasters, and ultimately work towards a more stable, prosperous nation that can achieve broad-based and inclusive growth.”