Back in business after a monster typhoon
“Odette was a monster typhoon,” says 48-year-old Belen Ga from Siargao Island in the Philippines. “The howling winds, which scared us to death, leveled all the houses made of light materials in our neighbourhood.”
Ga, who lives alone in a shanty town close to the shorelines, fled to an evacuation centre with her neighbours, carrying only a change of clothes and enough food to last for a day or two.
Odette (also known as Super-Typhoon Rai) first made landfall in Siargao Island on December 16, 2021, packing maximum winds of up to 257 kilometers per hour. The category 5 storm affected more than 12 million people, causing damage to agricultural goods, fishing boats and equipment, roads, electricity, and water lines. More than 460,000 hectares of land were lost to flooding, and as many as 2.1 million homes were damaged or destroyed.
When Ga and some of her neighbours returned to their community, they found the typhoon had wiped out their houses, and waist-high sea water flooded the streets as the waves had breached the seawall built to protect dwellers and their properties.
A few days later, Oxfam, supported by the Canadian government and the Humanitarian Coalition, in partnership with local organization SIKAT, began providing emergency assistance in the form of cash-for-food. At least 912 families in Ga's town received the cash grant.
“The amount may not be a lot but it’s a very big help considering that the typhoon destroyed not only our homes but also our livelihood,” she said.
Ga says the cash-for-food assistance supported her necessities for weeks.
She also used some of the money to buy flour and other ingredients to resume her home-based hotcake business.
Ga says she is thankful that the assistance they got from Oxfam and SIKAT was in cash rather than relief goods.
“I can choose what food to buy with the money on hand,” she says.
And that’s good news not only for Ga, but for the children who pass by every day to buy her hotcakes!