By Trina Loken, MAGG Graduate (2017)

As December has been fairly humid, smoggy, and cold in Hanoi, I am thankful to have been able to escape the city to do something active in nature for the first two weekends of the month. On the first weekend, I went hiking with some colleagues in Cuc Phuong National Park, a few hours south of Hanoi. On the following weekend, I headed eastward on a bus, a boat, and another bus to Cat Ba Island and its National Park with a friend from Canada. There, we were able to hike and indulge in the island’s gorgeous landscapes as we explored the area on a motorbike.

Just recently, it also hit me that having had my internship report approved in early December, I completed my master’s degree. I remember frantically pushing out final papers in my fourth year to complete my BA, but this time around, I woke up one day and was all of a sudden done. It is not as if a lot of hard work did not go into my coursework, my fellowship project, my major research paper, and my placement at UNDP Viet Nam over the course of this degree, but living abroad since the end of August has undeniably blurred my sense of place and time. My internship milestone report was therefore a nice chance to debrief with myself how broad economic and governance concepts like “public goods” and “multi-sectoral solutions” connect to the activities of a UNDP country office.

Disaster preparedness and resilience can be a public good when implemented correctly. The early recovery efforts currently being implemented by the UN, Government, and other partners in response to November’s Typhoon Damrey in Viet Nam will not only benefit those who directly had their homes destroyed or livelihoods impacted, but the broader public as well. Unfortunately, as of December, people in fifteen provinces are still suffering the impacts from the storm. There is still a need for access to sustainable and safe housing and to restore livelihoods, especially for those who were dependent on agriculture, aquaculture, and forestry. Furthermore, needs related to water, sanitation, and hygiene and food security remain issues. Existing poverty and debt, layered with added burdens on ethnic minorities and female-headed households, compound the impacts. The total estimated economic loss from the disaster lies at US $630 million – it is obvious that recovery is not a one-man job. “Building back better” for long-term resilience requires resources such as people, materials, and financing, and the capacity to leverage those resources effectively.

In November, the UN in Viet Nam secured a US $4.2 million grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to begin early recovery efforts in the regions highly affected by the typhoon. After securing another grant of nearly US $1 million from the Republic of Korea on December 12, UN agencies in Viet Nam are preparing to mobilize this money to the field so that it can be used toward the essential work of rebuilding homes. With the uncertainties and erratic weather patterns associated with global climate change, it is impossible to prevent a typhoon or eliminate any chance that it will cause harm. But still, risks can be reduced.

The loss of lives resulting from Typhoon Damrey has been tragic. Now, all stakeholders must move forward as best they can to regenerate livelihoods, infrastructure, and ecosystems, such that in the future, each and all will have stronger capacities to cope with extreme events.