MANILA (Mabuhay) – Norway’s top diplomat on Thursday said the aid provided by foreign donors to typhoon-ravaged Visayas region must be used to fortify and build better structures that could withstand natural calamities.
“It is important that aid is used as opportunity to build back better because we know this is an area very prone to natural disasters,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende said amid reports of alleged overpriced and sub-standard bunkhouses built for displaced victims of super typhoon Yolanda in the Visayas.
Yolanda, internationally called Haiyan, was one of the strongest typhoons to hit land with fury and force Filipinos have never seen before. Tsunami-like storm surges swept away and damaged more than a million houses and left more than 6,000 people dead. Bodies continue to be found.
More than 27,000 were injured and 1,700 others remain missing.
The United Nations said the typhoon has affected at least 14 million people and that it will take several years before the devastated areas could fully recover.
Brende, who made a trip to Leyte Wednesday to inspect Norway’s assistance projects in the region devastated by the monster storm, said the government must ensure that houses, emergency centers and livelihoods should also prepare for calamities.
“What we will try is to see that it is used to build these local communities in a way that can better withstand future natural disasters,” he said.
Two months since the storm struck, Brende observed that the situation in the Visayas, particularly in Tacloban, Leyte and in Basey, Samar – two of the worst-hit areas – are still in a “very, very difficult situation.”
Brende, former Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross, said he finds it “unfortunate” that only 40 percent of the United Nations’ $ 791-million appeal for the Philippines have been delivered.
While in Leyte, Brende announced that Norway is providing additional $ 8 million to Central Philippines in response to the U.N.’s call for more aid.
The fresh assistance brings Norway’s contribution to $ 43 million, making it the third largest donor to the Philippines’ rehabilitation efforts next to the United States and the United Kingdom.
As the Philippine government grapples with the daunting task of reconstruction and helping affected communities in Visayas, Brende said donors should step up its aid to the country.
“I am appealing to my colleagues in Europe and other colleagues that they would follow on this additional pledge so we can reach a much higher number than the 40 percent,” the Norwegian Minister said, adding that investments should also be infused in the region . (MNS)