According to the recent news, the numbers are close to 4,000. Super Typhoon Haiyan has claimed the lives of about 4,000 lives, people who once lived in Tacloban City and its vicinity, Ormoc City, Guiuan, and other municipalities of the provinces of Leyte and Samar. Many more are injured, and thousands more are homeless, ravaged, and distraught. It will take years for the survivors to rebuild. It will take a lifetime to recover from the loss of love ones and from the trauma of going through a super typhoon with wind speed of up to 195 mph, and gust winds of about 230 mph. Tacloban City will never be the same.
I am here in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I am writing this reflection from a distance. I get information from the news about the progress of the relief operations of various groups on the ground. I hear stories of our brothers and sisters of the Free Methodist Church from my pastor friends who are on-hand and physically present in the ravaged areas helping and doing their best. I write from a distance.
However, my personal experience with super typhoons in the Philippines is still very real to me. I have been through many of these kinds of typhoons. I once resided in Surigao Del Norte, and I had the luck of going under the eye of a super typhoon--twice. They were not fun experiences. In all of these experiences, the greatest challenge is the time of rehabilitation. When people start rebuilding their lives and picking up the pieces, that is when the real trouble begins. I do not mean to belittle the loss of lives of many at the height of Haiyan's visit last week, but more lives will be lost if we do not give the same money and energy to the work of rehabilitation.
One of the biggest problems in rehabilitation work in the Philippines is corruption. Once money comes in to financed recovery efforts and reconstruction of small communities, corrupt government officials will come in and take their cuts. There are many United Nations studies that corroborate this dire phenomenon. You would be fortunate if the local people, the recipients of these financial aid, get only one fourth of the intended funds. I have seen it happen. Every Filipino can tell you despicable stories of corrupt local officials and greedy national leaders carting away most of the funds.
I applaud the efforts of international groups. In the area of relief work, they are doing a tremendous job. It is such a shame, a slap on the face of our national leaders, who could not get their acts together to be there in Tacloban City and other affected areas when the people needed them.
However, in the area of rehabilitation, small local groups are still the best way to go to help typhoon victims rebuild their lives. Unless big organizations like UNDP, World Vision, and others, do not connect with indigenous groups, then all the efforts will be useless. They will just make some corrupt official happy.
I am fortunate to belong to an organization that is connected with local groups and indigenous populations. Our pastors of the Free Methodist Church of the Philippines are doing a wonderful job of giving relief work to its members. They maybe small efforts, but they are making a difference. I look forward to the years to come when I can participate in the efforts of rehabilitation and rebuilding the lives of the Filipinos in Leyte and Samar. These projects maybe small but they will go a long way. There will be no corrupt officials to pocket the money "cuts." There will be no red-tape and debilitating procedures and hegemonic organizational rules. There will be no fancy media coverage or big-name people to please. Everything will be for the locals, both Free Methodists and non-Free Methodists.
Before that day of rehabilitation comes, we all need to support the efforts of giving food, medicines, and other relief and rescue efforts for these Haiyan victims. When you are not giving, you can pause and pray to our God for help. "Be not far from us for trouble is near and there is none to help." (Psalms 22:11)