Gem of thoughtsThe entire world knew the enormity of destruction that the central Philippines, especially Leyte and a number of coastal towns and cities in Eastern Visayas, suffered in the Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan attack November last year. Millions of lives were adversely affected with tens of thousands having lost their homes and livelihood. Rebuilding lives with difficulty could be an understatement because beneath the critical assessment lie more intricate challenges that need to be addressed more seriously and collectively. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, in its Humanitarian Bulletin April 2014 issue reported “2 million people are still living without adequate or durable shelter nearly six months since Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan destroyed or damaged their homes.” It added that while more survivors started rebuilding their homes, the need for support for them to complete construction and ensured their access to basic services like water and sanitation as well as education and livelihoods persist.” This it disclosed without necessarily pointing an accusing finger at any agency in the government or other sector. In the approximately 520,000 houses damaged and 490,000 destroyed, the DSWD Shelter Cluster Monitoring Assessment Report informed that 80,000 houses have been completely repaired or rebuilt during the first six months of the response. 140,000 houses that had been severely damaged by wind and flood, have been partially repaired and only show minor damage now. The UN OCHA noted, “as soon as the storm had passed, the survivors started rebuilding their lives with the support of more than 70 Shelter Cluster Partners. In the five months that lapsed after sty Yolanda/Haiyan’s strike in Eastern Visayas, the UN has helped 133,000 households to build back, provided tools and other materials as well as training including storm frisk mitigation. The agency further disclosed that the rebuilding happened faster than in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake or in Aceh after the 2004 tsunami. The UN partly attributes this positive outcome to the donors’ generous contributions that allowed the UN and its partners to implement the emergency relief phase of the response.  UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator a.i. for the Philippines, Klaus Beck, the humanitarian community’s response was made possible by timely funding. “It was made more efficient by the fact that this country, Government and people are accustomed to dealing with disasters, many emergency structures were already in place,” he said during the press briefing UN OCHA called for the six-months-after-typhoon assessment. He added, “The Philippine authorities, including national and local government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations an the Filipino people all contributed to the massive response.” He said further that to date the humanitarian situation is stable. He however noted that the “life-saving gains we have made remain fragile.” Beck declared, “Millions of survivors require ongoing assistance, with the most pressing needs related to shelter and restoring livelihoods.” He explained that although the most basic emergency shelter needs were met at the beginning of the response, “millions of those whose homes were lost or damaged now live in inadequate shelter, leaving them extremely vulnerable.” He disclosed that over 5,000 of the most vulnerable families live in evacuation centers and tent cities, such as in Tacloban City and Guiuan (Eastern Samar). This is scene is patent in areas hard hit by typhoon Haiyan’s whirlwind and storm surge, in spite of the collective efforts from the corss section of the society in helping the survivors whose homes were destroyed or severely damaged to build back their homes. Beck advanced that supporting an additional 380,000 households is now critical. A crucial factor is the timely release of the funds needed to fuel the rehabilitation before another storm or the rainy season sets in that could. He stressed, “The $788 million appeal is now 56 percent funded,” admitting that the agency “urgently need fresh funding to support critical programming over the next six months. He said that over the next six months, the UN and its humanitarian partners will continue to prioritize shelter and livelihoods programming, while continuing to provide that most vulnerable people with additional assistance and protections services. While it may seem that funding is the major concern in the build back safer endeavor, the Shelter Cluster noted some more critical concerns. It noted, “Up to 200,000 families potentially face relocation from areas deemed unsafe due to the risk of storms and floods. However, the continuing policy gaps related to the proposed “no dwelling zones “is deeply distressing to the affected survivors.” The Clusters pushed that these issues need to be resolved quickly. It added, “property rights and ownership issues make it difficult to access enough land for building and reconstructing both transitional and permanent shelters. A report of the International Organization for Migration showed that some of the country’s most vulnerable and devastated areas are critically short of evacuation centers. The IOM ssurvey disclosed that of the 634 buildings designated as evacuation centers before Haiyan, only 8 percent remain usable today. It added. “Over 400 other edifices would need major rehabilitation before they can be used, while a quarter of them are totally destroyed.” The “build back safer” is losing its sense with the not so quite durable houses that are now being rebuilt or built, those that could withstand the next major storm, due to lack of good quality bilding materials such as fixings and corrugated iron sheeting. UN’s Shelter Cluster expressed fear that the focus on relocation from these areas makes life very uncertain for the families living there. “More emphasis needs to be put on alternative risk mitigation measures, as well as livelihoods opportunities,” it stated. UN OCHA reported, “The government and the Humanitarian Country Team partners have embarked on a search for more useable land, particularly in Tacloban City and the heavily affect ted municipalities in Leyte, and Municipal land-search committees are being established for this purpose. Beck finally commented that the UN want to help survivors to build back safer “so that the next massive storm does not bring the terrible levels of devastation that we saw with Haiyan.”