In rehab, ‘trust people’ | Inquirer Opinion

In rehab, ‘trust people’

/ 09:02 PM January 19, 2014

With reference to Norma P. Dollaga’s letter titled “Lecturing victims does not make a better donor” (Opinion, 12/13/14), I would like to further address some of the excellent points raised in response to the interview I gave to the Inquirer.

UN-Habitat has extensive experience in responding to disaster situations throughout the world—from Aceh to Haiti to Pakistan to the Philippines—and among the lessons we have learned is that recovery from disasters of this magnitude is most effective when people are empowered to manage the reconstruction of their own homes with support from their local community. The UN-Habitat approach, which we call the People’s Process, supports communities to become the main drivers of reconstruction, instead of leaving people to powerlessly wait for government or foreign aid agencies.


In an interview with Inquirer reporter Cynthia D. Balana, I said: “The people need to reconstruct their hearts, too. At the end of the day, it’s not the government but the people themselves who need the reconstruction” (“To rebuild, Pinoys must ‘reconstruct their hearts’,” Front Page, 12/1/14). Far from blaming the people or “lecturing the victims,” my intention was to remind governments and aid agencies of the need to trust people, empowering them to be at the center of actions and decisions for recovery and rehabilitation. We are aware that the damage incurred as a result of disasters like Supertyphoon “Yolanda” is not just physical in terms of houses damaged and lives lost, but an immeasurable emotional trauma borne by the survivors. I also come from a tsunami-affected country and I know there are people who are still traumatized, their lives still impacted by the disaster several years after it happened. The support required for communities in the Philippines goes beyond cash payments and construction of physical infrastructure; it requires building a sense of togetherness and resilience among communities to enable them to reconstruct their homes and rebuild their lives.

Providing the support required by the people affected by Yolanda is highly complex and will take a long time. There are no easy answers or quick solutions, but empowering people to manage their own reconstruction is an important way to ensure that people rebuild their hearts and homes, and that communities will emerge stronger from this terrible disaster.



regional director,

Regional Office for

Asia and the Pacific,

United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), [email protected]

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