Rapid Response and Effective Rehabilitation for Typhoon Haiyan

James Nugent, Director General of ADB’s Southeast Asia Regional Department, explains how ADB was able to mobilize its speedy response to Typhoon Haiyan, known locally as Yolanda.

ADB announced its $523 million assistance package to the Philippines on 13 November, days after Typhoon Haiyan hit land. How was the package put together?

Based on reports we were receiving as the typhoon approached the Philippines, ADB activated its internal monitoring even before its landfall on that fateful day. We were in communication with the relevant government departments and United Nations agencies.

When we heard that this was the worst typhoon recorded in history we realized that we needed to be prepared to act and to act fast. Immediately after the typhoon hit land we offered the $3 million grant from the Asia Pacific Disaster Response Fund, adding a $500 million emergency assistance loan. In addition, a $20 million grant from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction (JFPR), which focuses on livelihood restoration, was also agreed.

James Nugent, Director General of ADB's Southeast Asia Regional Department

In parallel, we constituted the Typhoon Yolanda Response Team, canvassing technical and thematic specialists across ADB. Our package was ready over the weekend, and we were ready to go to the Philippine Government by noon on 12 November. ADB President Takehiko Nakao briefed the ADB Board members on the package that afternoon.

What are the critical areas that ADB will focus on?

Our immediate goal is to help the Government of the Philippines to be ready and responsive. The $3 million grant has already been utilized for immediate relief goods, such as emergency supplies for the millions of displaced people.

The focus of the project funded through the $20 million JFPR grant is restoring livelihoods by getting people back on their feet, helping repair and rebuild critical public facilities, and boosting resilience to disasters in the process. Other areas include providing critical health services and assistance for pregnant women. The $500 million loan, on the other hand, will help the government meet the immediate budgetary requirements.

Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) aftermath
View photos of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) aftermath.

We are also working with the government on other important fronts. With some redesign, the ongoing cash transfers through our social protection, agriculture and road projects are well positioned to help the affected municipalities. Finally, as we learn more about the medium-term needs, we will be readying additional support.

What will the Typhoon Yolanda Response Team do?

As President Nakao noted, this is “Our Home” and we responded accordingly to the disaster. ADB’s Typhoon Yolanda Response Team has focused its initial efforts on conducting rapid assessments in the affected areas and helping the government draft the immediate phase of the Yolanda Recovery and Rehabilitation Plan. The team is now working with national authorities identifying and firming up the critical medium to long-term reconstruction priorities and resource requirements.

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Sub-teams are finalizing the JFPR grant and emergency assistance loan while others are readying further support operations through ongoing projects, as well as considering support action as needs assessments become known.

An important part of the team’s mandate is also helping boost capacity for resilience to future disasters, financial and fiduciary management, and civil society engagement. Ensuring that the benefits reach the most affected people is also critical. The team will work closely with the government on this front.

How is ADB’s assistance different from that of humanitarian organizations?

Our mandate, as well as comparative advantage, is perhaps more closely aligned with rehabilitation and reconstruction operations. The Philippine government, UN agencies, and some bilateral partners, on the other hand, are positioned to assist with immediate relief. They can mobilize medical teams, logistics specialists, and other emergency forces very quickly.

That said, ADB also supports relief operations. I already mentioned the $3 million grant, which is channeled through the government, and the mobilization of our response team of technical specialists. ADB staff are also part of the UN multi-cluster initial rapid assessment team, which is used to inform relief operations. In addition, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the overwhelming support and actions of countless staff within ADB who have been involved in a number of relief operations related to the typhoon.

Our mandate, as well as comparative advantage, is perhaps more closely aligned with rehabilitation and reconstruction operations.

Many organizations are rushing in to assist in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda. Moving forward, what are the challenges and how would ADB be tackling them?

The key word is coordination. From the outset, it is critical that the government takes strong leadership – as we are seeing here – in coordinating the efforts of its own agencies, multilateral partners, bilateral partners, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

ADB will be working very closely with the government. For example, we are sharing regional and international experience in post-disaster reconstruction, including from the Indian Ocean tsunami and other disasters.