USF Research

Philippine Typhoon Most Deadly for Baby Girls

Typhoon HaiyanTyphoon Haiyan destroyed the town of Tanauan in central Philippines, Nov. 14, 2013. Photo Reuters/John Javellana.

Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines last November with winds peaking at almost 200 miles an hour, killing more than 6,200 people and leveling dozens of towns. It was the deadliest storm in the country’s history.

A USF researcher says the worst could still be ahead. Jesse K. Anttila-Hughes, assistant professor of economics, studies how typhoons affect the Philippines. He says that during the next two years, 15 times more people could die from the storm’s after effects than died immediately after it hit.

Astonishingly, almost all those at risk are infant girls, and their chance of dying is even higher if they have siblings: it doubles if they have an older sister, and quadruples if they have an older brother. Baby boys show no increase in mortality rate.

Anttila-Hughes made the startling discovery by analyzing 25 years of Philippine government records on typhoons, economic prosperity, and infant mortality. Solomon Hsiang from the University of California, Berkeley was the co-researcher.

“What really surprised us was that infant girls accounted for all of the deaths above the usual infant mortality rates,” Anttila-Hughes said. “About 11,300 baby girls on average die in the two years after a typhoon, far more than the 1,480 total average deaths caused by typhoon impacts over the same period.”

Students Raise Relief Funds

USF students raised more than $43,000 to help typhoon Haiyan victims. Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan, a Catholic relief organization in Manila, used the money to buy and distribute rice, canned goods, and toiletry kits. Students also packed 200 care boxes with clothes, food, and medical supplies and sent them to the Philippine National Red Cross. USF’s Pilipino American Law Society raised an additional $2,300.

Researchers don’t know why the girls suffer so disproportionally, especially when they generally have a lower mortality rate than boys. USF graduate students are conducting follow-up research to learn more.

“What people should take away from this research is that the disaster in the Philippines isn’t over,” said Jay Gonzalez, USF adjunct professor of politics and Philippine studies. “For some, it’s just beginning.” 

This summer, Gonzalez will lead USF students on a two-week immersion class to Palawan, a province in the southwestern part of the country, where they’ll help rebuild houses and community centers. 

“Students will have a chance to see the disaster as part of a bigger socioeconomic, political, and environmental web—one they’re connected to, and, if they choose, one they can influence,” Gonzalez explained. 

“This is going to be the ultimate engaged learning experience,” agreed media studies student Jordan Guingao ’16. “We won’t just be in the classroom but out helping people, learning their stories and their hardships. This type of class is one of the reasons I wanted to come to USF.”

Students will also study at the Jesuit Ateneo de Manila University, one of the most prestigious universities in the Philippines.


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