ODI expert comment: Typhoon Haiyan

8 November 2013
ODI Head of Climate Change and international disaster risk reduction expert Tom Mitchell spent time working in the Philippines and is available for interview. Contact Jonathan Tanner on 07808791265.

Tom Mitchell said:

“This part of the Philippines is the most hazard prone place on earth.  Luckily that means it is also among the best prepared to face disasters such as this.  The storm will cause an enormous amount of damage but any assessment of its impact needs to focus on the impact on livelihoods as well as lives lost.

In this area of Philippines they have a community disaster management committee in every town, however small. Kids have school committees often focused on disaster risk reduction. The children develop their own hazard maps, plan evacuation routes, campaign for safer school buildings, push for disaster risk reduction to be in curriculum etc. It really is something to behold. I visited schools when working with Plan International in Southern Leyte in 2007 and wrote about a child-led campaign to move a school due to landslide risk - the children won.

Local government has a fund for reducing disaster risk and supporting local response capacity, big developments are often built with disaster resilience in mind, and everywhere has early warning and shelters. Nevertheless, it is still poor and there is a delicate economic balance to strike between spending on disaster resilient infrastructure and supporting basic services. This means that schools and health facilities are built to withstand certain wind strengths but there are economic limits and the wind strengths of this Typhoon, the strongest ever recorded to make landfall, may well have exceeded those limits. “

A recent ODI report  by Tom Mitchell on the future of poverty and natural disasters can be found here: www.odi.org/poverty-disasters-2030