Typhoon Haiyan Anniversary: Shelter Success

Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

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In the Philippines, early November means Christmas festivities are about to kick into high gear. For the Bretenia family, early November 2013 brought something life-shattering instead. Super Typhoon Haiyan barreled through their community in Palo, destroying homes, jobs and families.

The Bretenias were fortunate to escape with their lives. But their focus rapidly shifted from gratitude to recovery.

Thanks to a CRS cash-for-shelter project, the Bretenia and Dagami girls—cousins, neighbors and best friends—now have safe, sturdy homes. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS
Thanks to a CRS cash-for-shelter project, the Bretenia and Dagami girls—cousins, neighbors and best friends—now have safe, sturdy homes. Photo by Jennifer Hardy/CRS

Immediately after the storm, the 11-member family stayed in a makeshift tent that was only large enough for the children to sleep in—the adults stood outside in the rain. Now, thanks to Catholic Relief Services, they have a sturdy home that accommodates their large household. And they are applying the building techniques they learned through CRS to their own projects, notably a bunkhouse they built near their farm.

This close-knit family is just one of 20,000 families benefitting from the safe, durable shelters CRS built after Super Typhoon Haiyan. Tens of thousands more have benefitted from cash-for-work programs, and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance. Ten thousand families now have toilets that function well despite rough  terrain and high water tables.

The Bretenias, and so many families like them, were faithful about constructing their new homes with safety in mind. And CRS faithfully ensured that engineers signed off on all stages of each new and repaired home. That faithfulness brought communities, officials and CRS supporters together to achieve an outsized humanitarian success.

Abegail Bretenia, 16, is happy that her family had the flexibility to construct their home in a way that allows 11 people to sleep comfortably. A standardized design that didn't meet the needs of the family might have been easier for CRS staff to inspect, but it would have left her family extremely cramped and with zero privacy. Instead, staggered cash grants from CRS, combined with ongoing inspections from engineers, allowed the Bretenias to build a home that suits their large family.  

Additionally, a CRS livelihoods program helped her father, Fernando, get back to farming soon after the storm. The money he earned selling vegetables supplemented his shelter grants, giving the family enough money to construct a simple home with a concrete first floor and bamboo second floor.

Today, Fernando prioritizes spending money on his children’s education and nutritious food. After the storm, he went hungry to ensure that his children ate. And he faithfully tends his farm in the hot sun to buy rice and occasional treats for his children. Abegail is passionate as she describes her father’s sacrifices for her and her siblings.

“I’m very thankful, specifically to my father,” Abegail says. “Our house is strong because of him. Even though we are not rich, we are comfortable because my family can meet its needs.”

It’s been 2 years since Haiyan changed the lives of so many families across the central Philippines. On the second anniversary of Haiyan, the same CRS staff who gave interviews on international media are back in the field, helping survivors of Typhoon Koppu, which hit the northern Philippine island of Luzon in October 2015.

While the damage was not as severe as Haiyan and the death toll thankfully small, families need assistance repairing their homes and farm laborers need incomes until crops are replanted. There’s no media, no wider attention—and yet CRS is there, faithfully helping those in need.

Impact to Date


Emergency phase (first 3 months)

CRS supported 40,000 families—200,000 people—with emergency shelter, clean water and sanitation. In close collaboration with communities and our Caritas partners, CRS provided the following:

      - 42,921 emergency shelter materials

      - 35,620 water, sanitation and hygiene kits

      - Water taps and bladders for 13,120 people

      - Cash-for-work activities that removed 3,991 tons of debris


Transitional Phase (Years 1 and 2)

Shelter: CRS supports the repair and reconstruction of homes through technical trainings, materials, cash assistance and construction. In this way, we help communities build safe, durable and disaster-resistant homes. We train carpenters and supply them with essential tools. The shelter design incorporates latrines and septic tanks to ensure clean and sanitary environments. CRS has also relocated families to safer areas, where they live with host families or receive support to rent apartments that are safe and secure.

To date: 20,007 families—more than 100,000 people—have received support to rebuild and repair their homes.

Livelihoods: CRS and Caritas are working with families to help them strengthen and stabilize their incomes. We are helping them restore their assets and diversify employment options by offering vocational training in small businesses, agriculture, livestock production, fishery and aquaculture or gardening.

To date:  8,655 people—our goal is to reach 9,000—have gotten back to work with cash assistance or technical support. Of those employed, 48 percent are women.

Water, sanitation and hygiene: Every person receiving CRS shelter support is eligible to receive a latrine if it was damaged or destroyed during the typhoon. These efforts are part of a larger initiative to achieve total sanitation in typhoon-affected areas, and to work with local government to find long-term solutions for environmental and waste management.

To date: 7,744 household latrines built or repaired; 17,230 people attended CRS hygiene promotion trainings or campaigns; 60 schools benefitted from hand-washing stations. Ultimately, hand-washing facilities will benefit 97,000 people.


Looking Ahead: Recovery Phase (Year 3 onwards)

Over the next 3 years, CRS will support families living in dangerous areas along the coast of Tacloban City by helping them relocate to permanent homes nearby. We will also help communities improve their preparedness and risk reduction for future disasters, and will continue to strengthen families’ economic recovery.



Learn: View a photo gallery of shelters in the Philippines.

Advocate: Find out more about our Emergency Response and Recovery policy recommendations.

Learn: Explore our Settlement and Shelter Work programming and publications

Give: Support our current emergencies.

Give: Donate to the gift of relief.

Pray: Join us in remembering those affected by emergencies.