US renews commitment to help Yolanda-hit Leyte

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AP FILE PHOTO

TACLOBAN CITY – United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Assistant Administrator (AA) for Asia, Denise Rollins led the launch of the US-funded reconstruction and recovery activities in Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan)-affected areas.

Accompanied by USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria D. Steele, AA Rollins has been visiting program sites and engaging 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’ commitment to the Partnership for Growth – a bilateral agreement with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) to achieve broad-based, inclusive and resilient growth in the country.

In Leyte, the US Embassy Manila’s USAID Rebuild program, which will be implemented in close partnership with the Government of the Philippines (GPH), 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.

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

Leyte officials attended the launch ceremonies led by Governor Dominic L. Petilla, Congressman Martin Romualdez. An event was held at the San Fernando Central School, where the US government will construct a P21 million (US$480,000) school building with eight classrooms. As part of Rebuild’s education component, the US Government will build and furnish up to 165 classrooms and provide teaching kits. This will be implemented in close coordination with the Department of Education to address the need for permanent school buildings in Yolanda-affected areas.

“We will also work with the Department of Health to construct and rehabilitate up to 10 health facilities. This will include the provision of vital equipment and supplies to address the most critical medical needs of the affected population.”

“These new infrastructure facilities are designed to be more resilient to the impacts of earthquakes and extreme weather events,” said Director Steele.

The US is also 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.

Working with the chambers of commerce and industry of Leyte and Eastern Visayas, the US government will also re-establish 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.

AA Rollins inaugurated the first two of the approximately 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 will provide inventory and train store owners on basic store management. This initiative is expected to help restore livelihoods and help stabilize the supply and prices of basic consumer goods in typhoon-devastated communities.

AA 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, led by Albay Governor Joey Salceda, and the provincial government of Leyte, led by Governor Petilla.

Under the Memorandum of Understanding, the two provinces will share knowledge and expertise, and implement activities such as technical trainings 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.

“I am glad and thankful for this partnership with USAID. In this changing climate, an improved disaster risk response capacity will help us bounce back immediately from the impact of any disaster and increase our capability to become more resilient” Governor Petilla said.

AA Rolllins also 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 U.S. 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. Six (6) 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.

Overall, US government support is estimated at approximately $142.5 million to help the people of the Philippines respond to, and recover from, the devastating effects of Typhoon Yolanda.

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