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Updated: 5 hours 37 min ago

Myanmar: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (26 April - 2 May 2016)

2 May 2016 - 6:02am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Japan, Myanmar, Philippines

MYANMAR According to the Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD), over 58,000 people have been affected and 21 people killed by strong winds, hail and heavy rains in various parts of the country since 19 April. The severe weather destroyed 1,900 houses and damaged a further 20,000 homes. Authorities are continuing to validate the impact of the disaster. The RRD is providing cash assistance and relief items to households whose homes were destroyed or damaged. The Myanmar Red Cross Society (MRCS) and humanitarian agencies are also providing non-food items and shelter materials to the affected communities including 550 displaced families in Kachin State.

On 29 April, storms that hit parts of Kachin, Mandalay, Magway and Bago killed an additional three people and injured 21 people, according to initial reports from MRCS.

24 people killed
58,000 people affected

JAPAN As of 30 April, an estimated 30,800 people remain in evacuation centres following the 14 and 16 April earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture. With the resumption of services including water, gas, electricity, supermarkets and transportation networks, many people have returned home or found alternative housing. On 29 April, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that construction of temporary houses had begun in some of the affected areas including Nishihara-mura and Kosa-machi.

30,800 evacuees

PHILIPPINES With an estimated 40 per cent of the Philippines affected by drought, states of calamity have been declared in 11 provinces, 10 cities and 26 municipalities across the country, mostly in Mindanao. In Zamboanga City, farmers’ production has decreased by up to 75 per cent. Low water levels in the city’s reservoir is also affecting water delivery to some 23,000 people who remain displaced over two years since the fighting between the military and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front in September 2013. The national weather bureau forecasts that the current dry conditions may last until July in parts of Mindanao. Authorities continue to provide cash and food assistance to drought-hit farmers, however, scaling up the response is challenging due to a halt on most new projects until after the elections in May.

40% of the country affected

INDONESIA On 28 April, heavy rains triggered a landslide in Lebong District, Bengkulu Province on the southwest coast of Sumatra Island. Authorities confirmed one death and four people are still missing, with search and rescue operations ongoing. Flooding was also reported in Aceh, Central Sulawesi, Banten and West Java provinces which inundated more than 1,500 houses. Local governments have provided relief assistance with support from the national government.

1,500 houses flooded

Philippines: Philippines Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 4 | 1 to 30 April 2016

1 May 2016 - 11:49pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines
  • 32 of 81 provinces in the Philippines are suffering drought.

  • Small-scale farmers hit by the drought in parts of Mindanao are exhausting coping strategies while local authorities work to deliver assistance.

  • 23,000 people remain displaced in Zamboanga City two and half years after the September 2013 conflict.

  • The Philippines seeks international classification for its search and rescue teams.

  • Philippine private sector gears up disaster preparedness ahead of the World Humanitarian Summit.

Sarangani farmers go hungry in drought El Niño brings drought to 40 per cent of the Philippines

“Now we seldom eat rice or bread, [and when we do] it’s mostly with just vegetables,” says farmer Jennie Korbo, while surveying the cracked, parched soil of what used to be a corn field in Sarangani province, Mindanao.

While the Philippines is in the midst of election fever, farmers in the south are suffering from El Niño-induced heat that is laying waste to normally productive land.

Jennie has lost her two last corn crops and is now in serious debt because of the drought.
The ribs of her two cows are clearly visible as they amble from tree to tree seeking shelter from the unrelenting sun. “I just give them water so that they feel full. They only eat the dried corn stubs from the field,” she says.

The provincial capital of Alabel in Sarangani is full of farmers like Jennie who depend on corn for their livelihood. The municipality declared a state of calamity in 2015 when the region began to feel the full impact of El Niño.

Now with an estimated 40 per cent of the country suffering drought, 11 provinces, 10 cities and 26 municipalities and barangays across the country - but mostly in Mindanao – have declared states of calamity. Some 182,000 farmers with 224,800 hectares of agricultural land have been affected by El Niño.

Local authorities struggle to respond quickly due to funding freeze

In Alabel, an estimated 5,500 hectares of land normally supporting corn – including Jennie’s 1.8-hectare rented farmland – lie unplanted since February due to the lack of water. About 500 hectares of banana plantation are also affected, municipal agriculturist Enriguito Dagupto estimates.

According to Dagupto, many of the farmers say their families are close to starvation and are waiting anxiously for assistance from the Government. “The national government has promised irrigation pumps and seeds but as of now they have not been delivered. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is also promising food and clothing,” says Dagupto.

The farmers’ problems are compounded by the fact that government assistance has to follow special procedures for the 45 days in the lead up to the national and local elections in May. The municipality’s emergency funds are far from sufficient to help all those in need. “We have PhP3 million (US$64,000) in the calamity fund but are allowed to use only half of it [for this drought],” Dagupto says. The rest is saved for future possible calamities.

Although Sarangani province is among the poorest in the Philippines, its fertile land provides corn, rice, banana, coconut, vegetables and fruits for the rest of the country. Since February the region has lost half of its high-value crops, according to estimates.

The national weather bureau forecasts that dry conditions in parts of Mindanao may last until July. The local officials say they can only pray for the rain to come earlier. “We are getting worried that if assistance does not arrive in time, our people will really suffer. There may be massive hunger and peace and order will be affected,” says Dagupto.

Farmers cope with hardships as they await assistance

The Government has released $98 million to help counter the impact of El Niño on agriculture, through providing seeds, fertilisers, water pumps and technical training to the affected farmers and cloud seeding and other water supply augmentation. In addition, $11 million has been made available for emergency employment assistance and another $2 million for food distribution to the affected households. Unfortunately, none has arrived to help Jennie so far.

UN agencies, the Red Cross, and international and national NGOs are supporting the authorities with emergency food security assessment, distribution of food, water and other relief items, and financial and technical assistance to the affected farming communities especially in Mindanao.

While the scorching El Niño heat continues, Jennie slips deeper into debt. She borrowed PhP30,000 ($640) for seeds and fertilizer last August. “Before, we got 250 sacks of corn from my land; the last time I only harvested 20 sacks.” In February this year she did not plant at all.

Normally Jennie would earn PhP20,000 ($430) per harvest. Now she can’t pay back her loan with its steep 10 per cent monthly interest rate. Plus she needs money to pay the rent on her farmland and food for the family. The solution is to eat less, earn a few extra dollars from ad-hoc jobs and borrow more.

Jennie’s family is consuming bananas as an alternative to their staple food of rice. Her eldest son had to drop out of school to take a job as a motorcycle driver, while other siblings earned small fees for setting up an instant photography service at local end-of-school-year ceremonies.

These, however, are not sustainable means to make the family’s ends meet, and Jennie is worried about the decreasing water level in her hand-pumped tube well. If the family runs out of potable water, she may have to borrow again, from whomever she can, even though she will probably spiral downward into debt which may take a long time to repay, even after the weather improves.

Philippines: Philippines: Candidates’ views on rights in spotlight

1 May 2016 - 11:14pm
Source: Human Rights Watch Country: Philippines

Presidential Contenders Respond to Human Rights Watch Survey

(Manila) – Two of the five presidential candidates in the Philippines, Mar Roxas and Miriam Defensor Santiago, responded to a questionnaire on key human rights issues facing the country, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing the responses. Topics covered include accountability for abuses by state security forces, ending torture, indigenous peoples’ rights, killings of journalists, HIV/AIDS, and internal displacement. The presidential election is scheduled for May 9, 2016.

All candidates should take a stand on human rights in the campaign’s remaining days.

“Human rights are critically important in the Philippines so it’s important to learn what the candidates have to say about them,” saidBrad Adams, Asia director. “The candidates who responded to the questionnaire are helping Filipino voters better understand the country’s problems, and the steps that can be taken to address them.”

Human Rights Watch sent the human rights questionnaire to all five presidential campaigns on March 21 and sought responses by April 15, a deadline that was extended to April 21. The questionnaire contained 10 questions.

The campaigns of Roxas and Santiago submitted completed questionnaires by April 15. No response was received from the other three candidates: Jejomar Binay, Rodrigo Duterte, and Grace Poe.

“Human rights and justice go to the heart of how a government should be run,” said Adams.

Human rights have not figured prominently in the media coverage of the campaign or in two of the three presidential debates held so far. Much of the discussion thus far has focused on allegations that Duterte, as mayor of Davao City, was complicit in the operations of the so-called Davao Death Squad, which is linked to hundreds of killings of suspected criminals.

Term limits in the Philippine constitution bar the current president, Benigno Aquino III, from re-election. Aquino has presided over some positive developments on human rights, such as the passage of a reproductive health law. However, impunity persists for extrajudicial killings and torture linked to elements of the military and the police. Killings of journalists continue. Indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups forced to flee their homes because of fighting between government forces and insurgent groups have received inadequate assistance.

“The presidential candidates should make their positions and plans for protecting human rights clear,” Adams said. “Filipino voters should go to the polls with full knowledge of their prospective leaders’ positions on these life-and-death issues.”

Philippines: Philippines: Coping with El Niño - A corn farmer’s story in Sarangani, Mindanao

1 May 2016 - 6:43pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Philippines

After one year of prevailing El Niño conditions in the Philippines, drought is taking its toll on agriculture and has affected tens of thousands of farmers especially in Mindanao.

About 40% of the country, or a total of 32 provinces, is likely to experience drought until the end of April 2016, according to the authorities.

Despite the assistance provided by the government and aid organisations so far, some farmers are resorting to various coping strategies to sustain their living. With the uncertainty of when the weather and climate will improve, and a strong

La Niña episode associated with flooding and landslides predicted to follow, farmers will continue to seek their own alternative solutions to feeding their family.

World: Innovation needed to turn on climate cash tap for the poor

1 May 2016 - 10:35am
Source: AlertNet Country: Philippines, World

By Laurie Goering

DHAKA, April 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When residents of the low-lying Del Rosario slum settlement in Valenzuela City in the Philippines noticed floodwater was lapping half a finger's length higher up their homes each year, they decided it was time to do something.

Read the story on the Thomson Reuters Foundation