How does the response to typhoon Haiyan compare with other recent natural disasters?

by Sophia Swithern


Response to Haiyan compared

International financial assistance to survivors of the Philippines Typhoon has been significant and steady. Levels of international concern and generosity have been high. But despite the fact that over 5 times as many people were affected by this disaster than by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, less than a sixth has been given at the same point in the response.

The most severe typhoon in recorded history struck the Philippines on 8 November. Two weeks on, the UN’s  Financial Tracking Service (FTS) has so far reported that US$304m has been committed from sources ranging from donor governments to private individuals and a further US$270m pledged. The UN launched an appeal for US$301 million and this is now 43% funded at US$128.3.

How does the response so far compare with that to other large scale natural disasters?

The number of lives affected by these disasters is enormous and the impact on each person is devastating and often long term.  As well as those killed, the Pakistan floods affected an estimated 20 million people, the Indian Ocean tsunami just over 2.3 million people, and the Haiti earthquake 3.7 million. In comparison, the Philippines typhoon has affected an estimated 12.9 million people.

Yet the reported financial response by day 14 of each crisis response is  not always proportionate to the respective size of the affected population.  Over 5 times as many people were affected by typhoon Haiyan than by the 2004 Tsunami, yet  more than 6 times less financial assistance has been given.  Comparison with the Pakistan floods however, shows a more similar level of response per affected person – approximately US$25 per person affected by the Pakistan floods and US$23.5 in the current Philippines emergency.

What does this tell us about the Haiyan response?

Certainly not that there’s been a lack of generosity.  But the immediate conclusion might be that levels of funding are not dictated by relative numbers of people affected but by other factors. These could include media profile and global economic climate. Or perhaps perceptions of the severity of need, of the cost of responding in each of the contexts, or of the existing coping capacity.

Points to bear in mind when interpreting this chart

  • This data only represents the financial assistance reported to the FTS. Even when donors report their funding quickly, it can take a week for a commitment and to upload onto the FTS. And many private and government donors do not systematically report to the FTS, or report very late. So, retrospectively, the Philippines figures may look slightly different.
  •  Of course, financial assistance is not the whole story – in kind assistance is not represented in the graph. Today the Philippines Government’s Foreign Aid Transparency Hub (FAiTH) reported over US$239.4 million in non-financial assistance.  At the same point in the response, around the same amount of in-kind assistance had been committed to both the tsunami (US$239m) and the Pakistan (US$239.6m) emergencies, while Haiti received $111.2m.
  • And of course  global government and private commitments are only part of the resources that affected people receive – what would this graph of humanitarian response look like if we added in the figures for domestic response (lower in Haiti, higher in Philippines?) and remittances (likely to be high for Philippines?).

We’ll be looking into some of these issues in the coming weeks. Nonetheless can they really be enough to account for the dramatic disparity? Or does the immediate conclusion hold? Your views please…

You can download the data here in Excel, CSV and open document format.

Development Initiatives’ Global Humanitarian Assistance is producing regular updates on the reported financial assistance to the Haiyan response. If you have any data queries about this issue, please contact the GHA team via our helpdesk.

Typhoon Haiyan (aka Yolanda) struck the Philippines on 8 November. It was most severe typhoon to make landfall in recorded history.  Two weeks later, the exact death toll is still unknown, but UN OCHA estimates that 13.25m people were affected, of which 4 million were displaced.  This is on top of those Filippinos affected and displaced by the typhoon Bopha in December 2012, the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and the earthquake in Bohol.