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On November 8, 2013, the category-5 Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) made landfall on Eastern Samar in the Philippines, with high-speed winds of 235 km per hour. The super typhoon then crossed the country from east to west, losing intensity as it crossed the land. Very early reports counted 3 people dead and 7 injured, with almost 750,000 individuals displaced. As of April 2014, the death toll had increased to 6,300 people, with more than 28,000 injured and 1,000 individuals still considered missing. A total of 4.1 million Filipinos were displaced, and the national government estimates that up to 16 million people were affected in some way by Typhoon Haiyan. The Filipino government estimated the total infrastructural damages from Typhoon Haiyan at US$2 billion, with the social sector bearing the largest cost. Agricultural and fishing livelihoods were also severely impacted by the storm, with income losses of up to 70% for a large part of the population. In the aftermath of the disaster, relief and assistance poured in from various countries and a large number of international agencies and organizations. The United States government provided US$90 million worth of supplies and the US military activated a joint task force that grew to include 13,400 personnel and 66 aircraft and vessels. Neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and many others also provided support, but the ASEAN community was criticized for its weak response after the catastrophe - with some commentators calling Typhoon Haiyan "ASEAN's Katrina moment." The humanitarian efforts were coordinated by the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and organized around thematic clusters - each of them led by a different organizations such as UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) and the NGO Save the Children. OCHA released an action plan only four days after the storm hit the Philippines, providing early estimates of needs and casualties and giving preliminary funding priorities. The Typhoon Haiyan response plan included a budget of US$788 million in mid-December, but only 60% of the required sum been raised as of August 2014.The private sector and local actors also played a crucial role in the emergency relief response to affected populations. This represents a growing trend in the humanitarian sector, and it requires traditional actors to deepen their cooperation with private companies in a crisis situation and to strengthen relationships at the local level.Many lessons can be taken from this disaster, for improved relief and recovery efforts as well as enhanced risk-management strategies at the national and local levels. Typhoon Haiyan exacerbated the already difficult relationship between the Filipino government and local authorities, and the humanitarian response was significantly affected by governance issues. Geopolitical rivalries impacted the amount of aid sent by some countries, and it raised regional tensions at a time when historical animosities should have been put aside in the interests of assisting severely affected populations. Looking ahead, many challenges remain for Filipino authorities and humanitarian organizations, if they want to become more resilient, more efficient, and better prepared for the next storm.


Minna Brown, Thuy Phung, & Bradford Gentry


Yale School of Management

Pub date: 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015