Super Typhoon Yolanda may not be among the deadliest natural disasters in the world in the past 100 years, but it certainly is among those that require mobilization of international humanitarian, rehabilitation, and reconstruction assistance. The Philippines must move quickly in organizing one.
The worst natural disaster of the 20th century was the so-called China Flood of 1931 where over 140,000 Chinese drowned and, thereafter, 3.7 million died within nine months from waterborne diseases such as cholera and typhus. It was triggered by heavy rains that significantly raised the level of Yangtze River - Asia’s longest river and the third-longest in the world.
While immediate relief work will remain the priority in the coming weeks, the Philippine Government should now start preparing to organize an international pledging forum to bind commitments over medium to long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected cities and municipalities in central Philippines.
The Philippines could take a cue from various experiences in post disaster or global pandemic threats. Some of these are as follows:
Indian Ocean Tsunami
The Aceh province of Indonesia was the worst victim of the 26 December 2004 earthquake that triggered the Indian Ocean tsunami killing over 230,000 people in 14 countries. It was the second largest earthquake in recorded history. The disaster displaced about 700,000 people.
Indonesia immediately established the Agency for Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (known in Indonesia as BRR) to be the local counterpart of the UN Office of the Recovery Coordinator (UNORC). Based in Banda Aceh, BRR was the central coordinating agency domestically, while the UNORC served as the single access point coordinating efforts of 27 UN agencies, international NGOs, and bilateral donors. To pool funds from 15 donors, the $655 million Multi-Donor Fund (MDF) was created and its Steering Committee was co-chaired by the Government of Indonesia, the European Commission, and the World Bank, which acted as trustee.
Out of the overall $7.2 billion pledged for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of Aceh and Nias, $6.7 billion was delivered. This included a substantial amount from the Members of the Consultative Group on Indonesia pledged at a meeting convened on 20 January 2005.
Very Severe Cyclonic Storm Nargis made a landfall in Myanmar on 2 May 2008, causing a storm surge 40 kilometers up the densely populated Irrawaddy delta and killing more than 84,000 people. About 2.4 million residents were displaced.
A Special ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, attended by Myanmar, was held in and chaired by Singapore on 19 May 2008 which agreed to organize a pledging conference. Thereafter, the ASEAN-UN International Pledging Conference was held in Yangon on May 25, 2008 co-chaired by the Myanmar Prime Minister, the Country-in-Chair of ASEAN, and the UN Secretary-General. Manila sent a delegation headed by Senator Richard Gordon.
Post-Nargis Joint Assessment was jointly undertaken by the Myanmar Government, ASEAN and the United Nations. It became the basis of the Post-Nargis Recovery and Preparedness Plan, which sought US$691 million over a three-year period. Close to $500 million was pledged. A Special Envoy for the Secretary-General of ASEAN led the ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force Coordinating Office in Yangon. The World Bank Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery provided about $2 million grant to the ASEAN Secretariat to finance its coordinating function.
On 12 January 2010, Haiti was devastated by an earthquake which claimed the lives of more than 200,000, injuring 300,000, and left 1.5 million people homeless.
The Government of Haiti, the United States, and the United Nations, with the support of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain co-hosted a ministerial International Donors’ Conference towards a New Future for Haiti at the United Nations in New York on 31 March 2010. US President Barack Obama appointed former presidents Bill Clinton, who also acts as the UN special envoy to Haiti, and George Bush to coordinate efforts to raise funds for Haiti's recovery.
A follow-up conference was organized by the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, D.C., on 14 April 2010 where the Government of Haiti presented its two-year Action Plan for National Recovery and Development of Haiti, with a total budget of $1.4 billion. It was based on the Post-Disaster Needs Assessment conducted by Haiti with the support of the United Nations, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the European Commission.
Haiti created an Interim Commission for the Reconstruction of Haiti to coordinate and deploy resources and to ensure accountability and transparency in the administration of international support. At the request of Haiti, a multi-donor Haiti Reconstruction Fund was established by the Inter-American Development Bank, United Nations, and the World Bank. The International Development Association of the World Bank serves as the fund’s trustee. All proposals for financing must have the endorsement of the Interim Commission.
Bird flu spread rapidly in 15 countries in Asia, Europe and Africa that caused global concern as a potential pandemic threat between 2003 and 2006. The World Health Organization reported that confirmed human cases of avian influenza rose from 4 cases and 4 deaths in 2003 to 115 cases and 79 deaths in 2006.
In January 2006, China together with the European Union and the World Bank co-organized an International Pledging Conference on Avian and Human Influenza. Ninety countries attended, as well as 25 organizations, including the World Health Organization, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization. The international community pledged $1.9 billion in financial support administered by the World Bank for surveillance, monitoring, and treatment needs at the country, regional, and global levels.
It is important for the Philippine Government to maintain a sense of emergency or urgency during this period. In this context, it need not re-invent the wheel because successful experiences and best practices could be found from previous large-scale crises and complex emergencies elsewhere in the world that attracted international solidarity and assistance.
Jun Abad is Senior Fellow of the Institute for Strategic and Development Studies (ISDS) in the Philippines and former director of the ASEAN Regional Forum Unit at the ASEAN Headquarters in Jakarta. He is the author of “The Philippines in Asean: Reflections from the Listening Room.” The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations of his affiliation.