The daily struggle of a Haiyan widow

Jobs are the top priority for many of those whose livelihoods were shattered by Super Typhoon Haiyan. The situation is particularly challenging for women who lost their husbands and became head of household overnight.

Feature | 24 March 2014
Lilibeth Sevilla, Tacloban City
TACLOBAN CITY, Philippines (ILO News) – Like so many of the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in hard-hit Tacloban City, Lilibeth Sevilla, 37, says getting a job is one of her most pressing needs.

She lost her husband and three of her children to the storm’s wrath, and is now left to fend for herself and her surviving son. The killer storm that devastated parts of the central Philippines three months ago robbed millions of people of their livelihoods, and many widowed mothers now find themselves the sole breadwinners in their households.

“We did not earn much, but we did not have problems in buying the things we needed.” Now, even the little they had is gone. Her husband worked as a vendor, but his supply of fruits was lost when Haiyan destroyed their home.

Sevilla says she’s struggling to cope, but she knows she needs to be strong for her son.

Interview with Lilibeth Sevilla, Philippines

She says she has managed to make ends meet thanks to the cash she earned clearing rubble under an emergency employment programme. “Through the wage I earned, I was able to provide for the immediate needs of my son.”

Since Haiyan struck on November 8 and until the end of 2013, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) created over 20,000 jobs under the emergency employment programme, with assistance and co-financed by the ILO.

All I need … is a house to live in, food and work."
Sevilla says she appreciates the fact that attention was paid to the health and safety of the workers, who were given protective gear, such as masks, boots, long sleeve shirts and hats, and were guaranteed social security and health insurance.

She feels the work was also a great help to her community.

In a second part of the programme, the ILO plans to create jobs and generate income at the community level, and provide skills training, such as carpentry, masonry and basic accounting. About 20 per cent of the workers who were involved in the emergency employment are expected to take part in the second phase.

Sevilla, meanwhile, has high hopes for her seven-year-old son who recently returned to school. She is determined to work hard to make those hopes come true.

But she knows it won’t be easy.

“All I need … is a house to live in, food and work.”