Build Back Better: A Framework for Recovery

The Philippines is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to disaster risks such as typhoons, and experiences an average of 20 tropical cyclones a year along with other extreme natural and weather related events.  The Eastern Visayas are directly in the path of many of these potential disaster events.  So much energy and time is put into preparing for these events, because they can be THAT catastrophic. For example, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan):

School stage

School stage

  • affected 1.5 million families
  • killed over 6,300 people
  • injured almost 30,000
  • displaced over 918,200 families and
  • destroyed or damaged 1.17 million homes.


Post Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNA) intend to come up with the priority needs for post-disaster reconstruction and recovery, and initiate a short and long term recovery process anchored in the build-back-better-and-safer principle. The goal and hope is to avoid a repeat of these catastrophic results in the future.  Critical components of a PDNA that the participants of the Palo, Leyte seminar were specifically trained in were assessments for Hazards and Vulnerability, Damages and Losses, Human Recovery Needs.

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The five-day training gave us a few days of theoretical training, a day of inside mock assessment training, and then a day in the field for a trial assessment in a nearby barangay.  Our cross-sectoral group was made up of professionals with experience in sectors related to government, macroeconomics, social work, and the environment. During the field day we interviewed barangay officials and employees to better understand the damages, losses, and needs in their barangay after the destruction of Yolanda and then Ruby and Senyang in December of 2013.

Barangay Hall

Barangay Hall

Participation in the PDNA training allowed me to meet relevant officials, professionals, and educators in Biliran Province as well as other parts of Region VIII.  In regards to making partnerships in local government on the island this was pretty cool.   This training also gave me hands-on experience on developing PDNAs related to agriculture, fisheries, mangroves, and forest production.  Of course you hope against this kind of disaster. That being said, I leave this training feeling more capable of assisting my province in post-disaster situations.  I have been ask to help with the work of the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC), where I will hopefully be able to lend a hand in environmental and coastal related aspects of disaster management and recovery.  As far as side projects this is pretty sobering work, but I also believe it’s one of the most important ways in which I can lend assistance.

Evacuation Center at the public elementary school.

Evacuation Center at the public elementary school.


Visible destruction of the old sea wall.

Besides the training, I’m left with a sense of awe of the overwhelming strength of typhoon winds and power of the ocean. Seeing solid structures, concrete walls, and bridges reduced to gravel and scrap metal has left a lasting impression on me and has elevated my appreciation for this type of training and capacity building.



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This was a tough week, missing  a lot of things and a lot of people back home.  I’m also as determined as ever to learn and experience these new aspects of my home here in Biliran in order help the nearby communities in any and all ways they may need.

carry on,



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