Time for Tacloban

Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda), ripped through the Philippines on 8 November 2013. The most powerful storm to make landfall in recorded history, it left devastation in its wake. Therefore on 11 November, the government of the Philippines declared a state of national calamity.

The international community responded immediately with more than 60 countries pledging aid to help people in need of medical assistance, food, water and shelter. Gawad Kalinga, one of the largest NGOs on poverty reduction in the Philippines, contacted us to support their housing challenge - to construct 20,000 low-cost sustainable houses on Leyte, and the other islands hit by Typhoon Haiyan.

Did you know that many Royal HaskoningDHV employees donated their holidays to spend time providing technical expertise in the affected areas? These holidays have been used to assist Gawad Kalinga in their housing challenge.

As a spin-off of this initiative, we made the connection between the house-build programme and the need for clean drinking water and arranged to donate long-life water filters through Indonesian water filter company Nazava.

Creating new housing across Leyte

Nine months on and the Philippines rehabilitation programme is being implemented on a massive scale. Gawad Kalinga’s goal is to construct 20,000 new houses in those areas affected the most. Our role was to set up a construction planning and control department, a project control system, and to provide guidance on building the new houses safely, sustainably and cost effectively to make the most of available funds.

Rebuilding lives after the storm - site visits

During the past six months a number of our consultants visited sites across the island of Leyte where building work is underway. Consultants Wouter de Hamer and Wybe de Jager were among the first to arrive a few months after the typhoon.

Wouter: “People are slowly starting to rebuild their lives and where possible, residents have repaired their houses with metal sheets and tarpaulins provided by international aid organisations. However some communities were completely destroyed. Even though the government has declared certain areas ‘non-building zones’, many hundreds of people have returned to these areas and are living as best they can in tents.

“We visited an inland Gawad Kalinga community at Ormoc where all 75 houses had been severely damaged by the devastating wind speed. Gawad Kalinga is repairing those, and is building 25 new houses as a pilot so it can calculate actual costs and construction speed. We were able to advise on design improvements and construction methods, particularly on quality and safety of construction works.

Wybe: “At Tanauan village on the outskirts of Tacloban city, we saw how the meters-high typhoon surge had destroyed every house along the shoreline. People here are living in tents or makeshift houses, but the local government in cooperation with Gawad Kalinga has now designated a greenfield site for 380 new houses, and is providing infrastructure, drainage, water and electricity supply.”

Project planning and control

Senior construction manager Stephan Schouten and intern Iwan Stegeman worked with the NGO to set up a project planning and control department and innovative project control system in just six weeks.

Stephan: “The newly erected department provides a central office from which Gawad Kalinga can manage all its housing projects. The developed control system tracks progress on each project and will help the charity manage costs and maximise funding. An engineer has been hired and trained by us to implement the system further.

“The site-visits to Tacloban made a deep impression on us all. It’s clear that Gawad Kalinga’s work is contributing significantly to the lives of people in the worst hit areas and their passion and dedication is greatly admired. Supporting a NGO that already has a proven programme meant we were able to make an effective and lasting contribution to the reconstruction of the area. We hope our input will lead to an efficient process for the successful outcome of Gawad Kalinga’s building programme.”

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