Michelle Postrero Lao, 22, lost her six-year-old child when Typhoon Yolanda hit her hometown of Barangay Victoria, Dagami, Leyte province. Currently eight months pregnant with her fourth child, she was injured during the typhoon when a concrete wall damaged her family’s modest hut.
Michelle and her family did not know that Typhoon Yolanda, as Haiyan is known locally, was coming. They did not own a television or radio. The remoteness of her house, located in one of the hardest-hit areas, makes it even more difficult for them.
Her husband Roy, 32, rides a motorcycle every day to fetch drinking water from the next barangay, a kilometre away. Without access to electricity, Michelle and her family rely on solar flashlights at night.
A coconut farmer, Roy is now unable to support his family after the typhoon destroyed the coconut crop. They became dependent on relief goods provided by the municipal government and humanitarian organisations.
Today, six months after the typhoon, Michelle’s family is among the 10,000 households in Tacloban City and other municipalities in the upland areas who are receiving cash grants from UNICEF to help them recover and meet their most immediate needs.
The unconditional cash transfer programme is implemented through a partnership between the Government of the Philippines, UNICEF, and Action Contre la Faim. The cash grant goes towards ensuring that children receive proper nutrition and helps the families plan for their long-term recovery.
The programme covers households with pregnant and lactating women, the elderly, orphans, persons with chronic illnesses, persons with disabilities, children with severe and moderate acute malnutrition, single female- and child-headed households, as well as households hosting separated children. Households with pregnant and lactating women, such as Michelle’s, comprise most of the beneficiaries, around 68 per cent.
The beneficiary households receive a monthly grant of USD100 (approximately PHP4,370) for six months. The grant allows Michelle to buy fresh food from the market as well as non-food items, including clothes for her two-year-old daughter Mary Grace and four-year-old son Neil. Michelle saved PHP2,500 to pay a woodcutter to cut the coconut tree that fell near their house to use for repairs.
At the end of the cash grant programme, each beneficiary household will be evaluated for potential inclusion in Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Government’s largest social protection scheme run by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
The unconditional cash transfer programme is part of UNICEF’s strategy to help the Government deliver its social protection programmes. The grant makes a big difference for cash-strapped families struggling to recover from Typhoon Yolanda. By providing opportunities for them to meet their immediate recovery needs, the programme enables vulnerable households to rebuild their lives.
While memories of the disaster will not fade easily, the programme increases the opportunities for these families to recover. Michelle plans to use the subsequent cash grants to buy food for her family, medicines and new clothes for her soon-to-be-born baby, and iron sheets to repair the damaged roof before rainy season.
“Thank you to UNICEF for helping us,” she says.
By Anne Ong Lopez and Sandar Linn