UN warns Ebola could infect 10,000 people per week—unless we act now

Surviving Typhoon Rammasun in the Philippines

By Elizabeth Stevens
Many who lost their homes in Typhoon Haiyan last year faced Rammasun with inadequate shelter. Photo: Eleanor Farmer / Oxfam

Nearly 20 typhoons and storms strike the Philippines each year, and climate change is upping the ante. Communities that lie in harm’s way are trying hard to meet the challenge.

The powerful Typhoon Rammasun, which struck the Philippines, China, and Vietnam in quick succession, has left a swathe of destruction in its wake. Tens of thousands of homes have been damaged or destroyed, and the death toll is more than 150.

In the Philippines, where Rammasun made landfall on July 15, the island of Luzon bore the brunt of the storm. But communities on islands hit hard by super Typhoon Haiyan last November have also sustained damage. An estimated 40 percent of households affected by Haiyan are still living in temporary shelters, and many lay in the path of last week’s storm.

According to Philippine government statistics, the typhoons that reach the island nation are getting stronger—and there is no end in sight: tropical cyclones draw their power from the warmth of the ocean, and sea temperatures are on the rise.

Yet, there are signs that preparedness is making a difference. For example, thanks to heightened awareness and training, hundreds of thousands of people were able to evacuate before Typhoon Rammasun swept through their communities. (Read about the urgent need for more and safer evacuation centers in areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan.)

Oxfam’s work in the Philippines since Typhoon Haiyan, which has so far reached more than 730,000 people with aid, has focused on protecting public health, helping hard-hit farming and fishing families restore their incomes, and advocating for fair treatment of women and girls in the recovery. But it has also included emergency simulations to ensure that when disaster strikes, local people and their leaders—always the first responders in emergencies—are ready and able to save lives.