DISASTER AID in the time of super typhoons like Yolanda has fortuitously flowed richly, quickly, and from a bounty of donors without fail to assist Filipino families and communities in need. On parallel stream, public funds devoted to relief, recovery, and reconstruction have surged just as abundantly.

But as many as 20 tropical cyclones visit most of the nation’s 7,107 islands every year. Some make a mess, many others destroy. And as the disasters follow in short succession, hopefully, too, disaster aid would come incessantly.

Now more than ever, transparency and accountability in the use, release, and results of disaster aid resonate as legitimate public goals and goods. To document the story of disaster aid and how deficits of integrity or efficiency in the use of donations and public funds could send the victims and the survivors to even worse calamity, the PCIJ staff launched a major investigation project, Disaster Aid: The Money Trail.

This project enjoys support from Christian Aid, an international non-government organization, through its Philippine Country Office that focuses on “resilience and justice to address the persistent poverty and inequality aggravated by disasters and the risks of climate change.”

Christian Aid funded the project “as our contribution to the interest of the public’s right to know how the Yolanda funds are managed and used and that the findings and recommendations are meant to feed into the policy discourse on Republic Act No. 10121 (The Philippine Risk Reduction and Management Plan of 2010) review and the Yolanda budget process.”

Across a two-month period, nine PCIJ editors and writers worked on Disaster Aid: The Money Trail. This was how we did it:

* Gathered, sorted, and analyzed 626 megabytes of 688 research files;

* Sent 188 request letters for data and documents, including 117 sent to international and national nongovernment organizations and private entities; 59 sent to donor countries and foreign embassies; and 12 sent to government agencies;

* Conducted dozens of interviews and three focus group discussions with the affected residents, aid workers, donor representatives, local and national officials, and expert sources;

* Attended and covered eight public briefings, dialogues, and forums on the status of rehabilitation work for victims of Yolanda;

* Wrote and produced a dozen stories; a full-length documentary; nine video shorts; and 12 “Voices” video featuring aid agency and NGO leaders; about 100 photographs; and a microsite that aggregates these editorial products and primary documents from aid and government agencies.

Today, eve of the visit of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, to Manila and Tacloban City on 15-19 January 2015, we are launching PCIJ’s Disaster Aid: The Money Trail microsite to draw focus back on the nation’s huge, unfinished task of recovery and reconstruction from Yolanda, the disaster that lingers still.

For related video, photos, data tables, and documents, check it out!

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