Achieving Human Security after a Disaster: the Case of the Haiyan Widows

In: Philippine Political Science Journal
Ladylyn Lim Mangada University of the Philippines Visayas Tacloban College Philippines

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Yvonne Su University of Guelph Canada

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When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, it took the lives of over 6,300 people. Many of those who died were men who did not evacuate in order to protect their homes. As a result, widowhood was a significant and devastating consequence of Haiyan, but widowed women were also one of the most neglected and underserved vulnerable populations in the aftermath of the disaster. The data used in this study were drawn from 15 semi-structured interviews and three focus group discussions with widowed women in three areas in the province of Leyte that were heavily affected by Haiyan: Tacloban City, Palo, and Tanauan. Our fieldwork uncovered that while the delivery of humanitarian assistance provided a modicum of human security to the survivors, the ability for widows to achieve human security was severely reduced and constrained. Thus, the main research question of this paper is: “What undermined the widows from attaining human security after Haiyan?” and we argue that there were four main factors: (1) the lack of equal access to economic opportunities; (2) the occurrence of new risks in the resettlement sites; (3) the inability of institutions to respond and adapt to change; and (4) the absence of survivor-centered decision making venues. To overcome these barriers to human security in the future, we make two key policy recommendations on how local government units, being the primary organizations that deliver prevention and response services, need to do. These are: (1) prioritize the elimination of existing economic and social vulnerabilities in the relocation sites, and (2) prepare the widows and their families for future climate shocks.

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