November 8th, 2014
12:14 PM ET

Hope After Haiyan: building back better and safer

When I think back to Super Typhoon Haiyan, I often think of this image. It was captured from space by American astronaut Karen Nyberg.

Haiyan was one of the world’s most powerful storms in history, and you can see its sheer strength in that snapshot from orbit.

The super typhoon generated a storm surge as high as five meters. It roared ashore and wiped entire communities away. In the end, more than 6,000 people were killed and almost 4 million people displaced.

But Haiyan's legacy is more than a death toll. It’s more than shocking pictures of the storm’s strength or the devastation it caused.

It’s about the fate of millions of already impoverished people who lost their homes, livelihoods and loved ones.

One year after the typhoon, hard-hit Tacloban is getting back on its feet.  Much of the debris has been cleared, new houses are being built, and shops have reopened.

It’s a sight that surprised Sandra Bulling, an aid worker with CARE International who was in Tacloban in the immediate aftermath of the storm.

“It’s almost a normal Asian city again,” she tells me.  “You have stores freshly painted and rebuilt that sell everything from sandals to the latest mobile phone models. You have bustling markets where you can buy food on the street and restaurants.”

“Even karaoke bars have been set up again,” Bulling adds.

It is encouraging to hear of the progress that’s been made so far. But many challenges remain. Tens of thousands of survivors are still living in temporary shelters.

With farms and fishing equipment destroyed in the storm, millions of workers also lost their jobs. And as people struggle to rebuild their lives and find employment, social problems like domestic violence have spiked.

Many have been frustrated at the slow pace of progress. A $4 billion government rebuilding program designed to create millions of jobs was only just approved last month.

With around 20 typhoons affecting the country each year, extreme weather remains a constant threat for the nation - especially for the scores of families who still live in makeshift tents.

“The priority is still for these people who live in these shelters to get a safe roof over their head,” says Bulling.

Haiyan’s strength when it hit land was unprecedented in history. And the threat of another typhoon disaster looms.

The Philippines has no choice but to build back better and safer.

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