Building Community Aids Typhoon Relief


Humanitarian building and architecture organizations are assisting in the global effort to aid victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which has ravaged the central Philippines and claimed thousands of lives.

One of the most powerful storms on record, the typhoon wreaked havoc Nov. 8 with 235 mph wind gusts, heavy rainfall and crashing waves.

Officials estimate that between 9.6 million and 11 million Filipinos were affected throughout 41 provinces. Many of those affected were still reeling from a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that hit the area Oct. 15.

The typhoon, also known as “Yolanda,” displaced 673,000 people, 300,000 of whom are sleeping in the open. Some resorted to looting for survival, as getting aid to the areas hardest hit continues to be a challenge, reports said.

The official death toll reached 2,357 on Thursday (Nov. 14), according to the Filipino government. However, many expect that number to climb, as bodies line streets and some villages thought to have been affected have not been assessed.

Initial estimates put the number dead at 10,000., although subsequent reports have called that number exaggerated.

“There is a lot of speculation about the death toll, and everyone trying to figure out how many people have died,” says Sandra Bulling, the communications officer for global relief agency CARE.

“But we can’t just measure the disaster by the number of dead people–entire communities have been wiped out. Houses, everything, gone.”

Worst Hit Area

Only a few concrete buildings remain standing in one of the hardest hit areas—the city of Tacloban, the capital of Leyte province.

"I don't believe there is a single structure that is not destroyed or severely damaged in some way—every single building, every single house," U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Paul Kennedy told members of the media after taking a helicopter flight over the city.

military aid

Wikimedia Commons / Lance Cpl. Caleb Hoover

U.S. Marines help displaced Philippine nationals from the back of a KC-130J Super Hercules at Vilamor Air Base in Manila on Nov. 11. Typhoon Haiyan has impacted millions people across dozens of provinces.

The U.S. Marines used lift supports and helicopters to complete search and rescue efforts following the storm and the military has been delivering relief goods to many of the areas hit, including Tacloban.

The Tacloban city administrator said 90 percent of the city had been destroyed and looting was prevalent.

Aid workers with trucks going into the city must make the decision to distribute food or collect bodies there, according to Reuters.

Many relief organizations and others around the world have offered and mobilized assistance to the battered country, including Habitat for Humanity, Architecture for Humanity, and the American Institute of Architects.

Habitat for Humanity Response

Habitat staff members in the Philippines report that they are “assessing the situation and coordinating with government agencies and other partners on the disaster response operations.”

The group says immediate response efforts include the distribution of 50,000 cleanup kits and 30,000 shelter repair kits to help families repair damaged homes.

Depending on funding, the longer-term response will follow Habitat's model of assisting affected communities with a range of housing solutions, from emergency shelter interventions to permanent home reconstruction, the organization said.

“As the international community begins to assist our friends in the Philippines, we are seeing how much work will be needed in the days and months ahead to help families rebuild their homes and their lives,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International.

Habitat's ability to respond effectively to the Typhoon will require support from donors, volunteers, corporate partners and other community organizations, the group reports.

Donations to Habitat for Humanity can be made by visiting its website.

Architecture for Humanity, AIA Efforts

Architecture for Humanity is in the early stages of its response efforts to the typhoon. The volunteer organization aims to promote architecture and design in seeking solutions to global social and humanitarian crises.

“We are currently in touch with local architects and partners within our network, who are helping us to identify the most critical rebuilding needs—both in the short and long term,” said Eric Cesal, director, Reconstruction and Resiliency Studio.

“As we identify these needs, we will work with communities to build back better. Early support will allow us to begin working with communities immediately and empower local architects to drive recovery locally.”

American Institute of Architects’ President Mickey Jacob, FAIA, said the AIA had also reached out to the International Union of Architects (UIA), Architects Regional Council of Asia (arcasia) and other professional associations in larger regions to offer support to the United Architects of the Philippines (UAP).

“For the moment, though, as initial relief work is being performed in the aftermath of the storm to stabilize daily life, the most important thing we can do is to contribute to organizations who are actively responding to this crisis,” Jacob said.

“We encourage everyone to make a contribution to relief groups, including Architecture for Humanity, or any other organizations you know and trust.”

Donations to Architecture for Humanity can be made via

Infrastructure Devastation

The typhoon also exposed the vulnerability of the Philippines’ infrastructure, ravaging a network built by a corrupt and indifferent system and then neglected. Infrastructure spending has made up an average of just 2.5 percent in recent decades. (President Benigno Aquino III vowed to double that percentage when he took office in 2010.)

Typhoon Haiyan


Tacloban residents are trying to salvage and carry any household items they can from the destruction of the storm. Food, water and health supplies are the top priorities for the hundreds of thousands of people hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

The Philippines has the lowest percentage of paved roads when compared with neighbors Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore, according to Macleans, citing data compiled by foreign business groups in the Philippines in 2010.

Haiyan also wrecked much of the airport at Tacloban, the capital of hard-hit Leyte province, crippling relief efforts there.

Airport Tarmac

UK Department for International Development

A Boeing 777, capacity 100 tonnes, has flown from Dubai to Cebu carrying 8,000 shelter kits. The shelter kits consist of plastic sheeting, rope and rope tensioners, and each one will keep a family of five sheltered from the elements.

Now, domestic and international aid material is stuck in Manila, Cebu and Tacloban for lack of transport channels, news reports said.

"In some cases, the devastation has been total," Secretary to the Cabinet Rene Almendras told a news conference. 

How to Help

These organizations are among the many that are contributing to relief efforts.

The American Red Cross has launched a family tracing service, among other efforts. (Google has also launched a person finder.)  Donations may be made to local Red Cross chapters or directly to the Philippine Red Cross.

UNICEF is taking donations to help provide children with shelter, clean water, nutrition and vaccines. An airlift set to arrive on Tuesday will include water purification systems, storage equipment and sanitation supplies. Donations may be made to

The World Food Programme (WFP), a United Nations organization, will send more than 40 tons of high-energy biscuits and work with the Filipino government to help with logistics and emergency communications systems. At the same time as it brings in emergency food supplies, WFP is also flying important equipment such as prefabricated offices, mobile storage units, generators and radio equipment. This is vital to allow the government and humanitarian community to properly organize the relief operation, according to WFP.

Donations may be made to or by texting the word AID to 27722 to instantly donate $10.

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has launched a $10 million appeal and sent an emergency team to Manila.

Doctors without Borders has organized teams of doctors, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, water and sanitation experts and other specialists. It is also dispatching nine cargo planes loaded with tons of water, sanitation and medical supplies but says the infrastructure damage has made it difficult to reach affected areas.

The Salvation Army is also asking for $10 donations by text; 100 percent of money donated by sending TYPHOON to 80888 or through its website will be used to sort, ship and distribute donated goods.

Direct Relief has shipped 1.5 tons of medicine, nutritional supplements and first aid supplies to the Philippines and hopes to ship more with donations through its website. The organization has also partnered with Team Rubicon, a veterans’ disaster response organization, to deliver portable kits to displaced survivors.

AT&T and Verizon are offering free calls and texts to the Philippines for customers trying to contact friends and family there.

Oxfam teams on the ground are reporting an urgent need for food, clean water, medicine and shelter.

Potential for Fraud 

While many relief organizations and charities are legitimate, the potential for fraud is present in the aftermath of a natural disaster, according to a release from the Department of Justice, FBI and National Center for Disaster Fraud.

Officials advise a critical eye and due diligence before giving to anyone soliciting donations on behalf of storm’s victims.

Suspected fraudulent activity pertaining to relief efforts associated with Typhoon Haiyan should be reported to the toll-free NCDF hotline at 866-720-5721.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Construction; Disasters; Fatalities; Health and safety; Maintenance + Renovation; Rebuilding; Residential Construction

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