Analyzing Typhoon Haiyan
With the Philippines struck by an average of eight to nine typhoons a year, at a significant yearly cost to their economy, they knew something was imminent. It was only a matter of time. As #3 on the World Risk Report’s list of most at risk countries, it is followed at a distance by both Haiti and Indonesia. The Philippines hold such a high place on the World Risk Report because of a high exposure risk due to its geographic location and its relative poverty. Haiti and Indonesia have a much, much lower exposure risk, though I am only using them as a base line because they have had the most recent major natural disasters and could be on the face considered comparable.
While the Philippines has a very low relative coping risk, it still has a low coping capacity. Also, I should note that I am interpreting coping as resiliency for the purposes of this article. It has been widely reported that the Philippines has a very, very low rate of those possessing personal insurance. This lack of insurance greatly affects that coping capacity. The losses to their economy are high, especially in a country with a large poor population and a concentration of development situated on or near its coasts — it is an archipelago after all. Having a large population uninsured exacerbates the problem. Should the Philippines wish to advance as a nation, typhoons battering their economy at such a scale are a huge risk. All that said, it is worth noting that in terms of dealing with disasters, the Philippines are more prepared than Haiti and Indonesia were.
How have the Philippines been making themselves more resilient? The Philippines recognize the danger of their location and take this seriously. In response to this risk, the Philippines has mandated climate resilience across the board and has created a The Climate Change Commission which reports directly to the nation’s president. Also, as a small nation, the Philippines has a large portion of the population living outside of the country- about 4.5% of the total population. This is likely not a planned resiliency effort, but during times of disaster, this dispersed community becomes an important asset. Typhoon Haiyan however was of such magnitude as to overwhelm these efforts. Past coping efforts will not be enough for the new level of destruction.
What can we do?
Last week I had the great pleasure of attending Architecture for Humanity’s (AFH) fourth annual Design Like You Give a Damn conference in San Francisco. The topic this year was building resilient cities, and, the resounding theme from the AFH conference was, “Your best resilient, sustainable resources are your neighbors, your community.”
Building resilient cities is a fitting topic for the work that Architecture for Humanity does. Since its founding, the organization has facilitated resiliency efforts across the globe, and for the past 15 years, AFH has tackled almost all recent post disaster areas. Moreover, its many efforts in non-disaster areas aim to foster the foundations of more resilient communities which will have a better response if and when disaster strikes.
Of course, for the Philippines, disaster has struck. On day two of the conference, Typhoon Haiyan made landfall. AFH coordinators would not let hosting a conference slow their response. By midday, key coordinators had holed up in a gathering room within the space where the conference was hosted. They began organizing their chapters close to the storm, and others spread across the world to begin putting together their response plan.
While at the AFH conference, I asked program coordinator Audrey Galo how MIIM Designs can help. She explained the typical response timeline. Six weeks gathering information, resources, and contacts. Then, after a six-month period, design services become needed. For now, short of physically going to The Philippines— and that can be counterproductive itself as many well-meaning people only end up burdening a burdened aid system—, declaring your availability to offer services and raising money are the immediate needs. The Haiyan Action Plan, initiated on 12 November, is only 13% ($38 million) funded. So funds are certainly an urgent need. You can also simply donate to our #rebuildPH campaign. There are also innovative internet-based tools like Stand by Task Force which you can use to aid the on the ground recovery effort.
In the meantime, while waiting to offer your services to The Philippines, take this time between cleanup and rebuilding to take a step back and research the culture, needs, and communities of a target area in relation to the whole. Rebuilding needs to be more than about infrastructure. Also important is preserving the culture, meeting the needs of the victims, and rebuilding communities. Begin contact building within the area and start educating these contacts on the design process. Remember always: the goal isn’t to build quickly; it is to build back better. It’s all about community.
While we here at MIIM Designs wait until our design services will be needed, we are organizing a fundraiser in cooperation with Architecture for Humanity. Click here to contribute to the campaign.
Bryan Mock is Intern Designer at MIIM Designs LLC. He graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor’s in Architecture, and is committed to making the world a better place through architecture and design. Follow MIIM Designs @MIIMDesigns and Bryan @bmock