In 2014-2015 I was working in a recovery program in the Philippines, after super-typhoon Haiyan visited the area – the strongest storm ever recorded.

I was acting as a field-advisor to tackle the specific needs of people with disabilities within the destroyed area. Every disaster comes with injuries; in a collapsing health system these injuries easily lead to long-term and extensive consequences. Additionally, when disaster strikes, people with disabilities are often left behind in the hectic of evacuation or emergency kit delivery.

During major disaster, human kind falls back to survival of the fittest. People with disabilities often can’t reach the existing aid workers – and the aid workers don’t reach them either. Isolation from both emergency preparation and response is a failure of the human rights of an already vulnerable population.

Almost a year after the disastrous typhoon I flew into Manila to carry out my mission – after the initial briefings I moved on to Tacloban and Roxas, where I would supervise 2 teams of local physiotherapists and other aid workers for the next few months.

During my mission, the area was again hit by a huge typhoon, named Hagupit. Being confronted with the aftermath of natural disaster is overwhelming, no matter how much you’ve seen. But to be part of the imminent destruction approaching within a few days’ time, was a total different experience. To ride out the storm, not knowing what’s still to come and then, when it’s all over, to get out there not knowing what you’re about to encounter, was an intensive situation.

7 December 2014

Happy Birthday…

Should there be only one thing I could wish for this birthday and all the ones that might follow, it’d be: stop pushing people through the hell of a typhoon! Mother Nature is a Bitch.

What an incredible brutal force of nature. It’s impossible to explain, to describe. This can’t be compared with anything I’ve experienced before. I almost feel guilty for my amazement watching this natural spectacle. I think about all those people who need to live through this; who fear for their lives, who lose everything they possibly have at this particular moment … and I can’t do anything to help them. Life is so incredibly unfair.

Never will I watch the news with the same eyes as before, when they report about a storm with devastating force. Last year, watching the footage of the destruction that Hayan left behind, I had been impressed to see what became of the area that I got to know a couple of years before – and had such beautiful memories of.

Today, tomorrow, and over the coming months, similar images will be my daily observation.

What will we find, what will we encounter? Will we be able to reach the areas where help is needed the most? What exactly will be needed? How will I deal with the fact that I will never be able to do enough?

After we had assisted the evacuation – thoroughly searched all neighbourhoods for people that had been left behind – it was about time to go into containment ourselves. All windows and doors were nailed with wood, the glass taped to avoid flying splinters should it come to an impact after all. We received water, fuel, and food. We transformed the living room into an emergency office, where we started composing proposals for the immediate response, using the bits and pieces of information that trickled through. We put up a large map of the area on the wall, to record everything and indicate the areas of isolation. Tomorrow the first colleagues will go out and check the situation; taking chain saws to make their way through the jungle that was created overnight. According to their first assessment, we’ll compose and send out the emergency teams. There’s no doubt about the necessity of all that – however this means a further interventions delay for the people who’ve been waiting for recovery assistance for over a year, after all their belongings were destroyed by last year’s disaster… Mother Nature, why are you in such a hurry? Can’t you just let us get back on our feet again, before you hit again with this brutal force of destruction?