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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

Philippines: Philippines: Drought and dry spells - Information Bulletin no. 1

29 April 2016 - 10:19am
Source: International Federation of Red Cross And Red Crescent Societies Country: Philippines

This bulletin is being issued for information only, and reflects the current situation and details available at this time. The Philippine Red Cross, with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has determined that external assistance is not required, and is therefore not seeking funding or other assistance from donors at this time.

Summary

Some 42 per cent of the Philippines is currently experiencing drought or dry spells brought on by El Niño effect. As of 15 April, 39 provinces, cities, municipalities and villages have declared a state of calamity. The worst affected areas are Mindanao and the Visayas regions. According to UN OCHA, around 181,687 farmers and 224,834 hectares of agricultural land have been affected since January 2016. Already, an estimated CHF 81 million in agricultural production has been lost. Rainfall for March was again well below normal.

So far, the Government has released funds to implement mitigation-and-response strategies addressing food security, energy security, as well as health and safety in affected communities.
Humanitarian agencies are supporting with emergency food security assessments.

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has been responding to affected areas by supplying safe drinking water and food relief assistance to some of the most affected areas.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) has also warned the public on the possibility of a La Niña event occurring later this year, after El Niño ends. La Niña is the opposite of El Niño and is characterized by above normal rainfall, strong monsoon activity, and formation of more tropical cyclones.

The situation

According to the World Meteorological Organization, this is one of the most powerful El Niño events in modern times and its impact will remain for several months to come. Since the first quarter of 2015, most areas of the country have experienced below normal rainfall attributed to the El Niño effect. PAGASA states that 29 per cent of the country experienced drought in March 2016, while the prediction is that 40 per cent of the country will experience drought in April, and 31 per cent in May. Most of the affected areas are in Mindanao. According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), as of April 16, a total of 457,497 families or 2,124,790 persons from Regions NCR, I, II, III, IV-A, IV-B, VI, VII, X, XI, XII, and ARMM have been affected by El Nino.

Less rainfall has reduced access to clean drinking water and water available for agricultural use. Parts of the country, such as Mindanao, are also experiencing a shortage of power supplied by hydroelectric dams due to the low water level. Also in Mindanao, a state of calamity was declared in Zamboanga City on 13 January 2016 due to low dam water levels. The Philippine News Agency reported that 9 out of 25 dams in the city have dried up, 6 are at critical levels, and another 10 below normal water levels.

The Department of Agriculture estimates that 181,687 farmers have been affected by the drought. Of this, 54 per cent are rice farmers, 38 per cent are corn farmers, and 8 per cent are high value crop (HVC) farmers. In terms of land area, 224 834 hectares were affected. Pest infestation is affecting 1,704 farmers in Region III, with armyworm damaging 1,060 hectares of HVCs while and rat infestation is affecting Region XII (South Cotabato, Sarangani, North Cotabato, and Sultan Kudarat) and Region XV (Maguindanao).

Due to insufficient rainfall, few farming activities have been undertaken in other areas of the country particularly in Ilocos, Western Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Misamis Occidental, Davao Region,
SOCCSKSARGEN1 , and Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. The Performance of Philippines Agriculture report by Philippine Statistics Authority states an 11 per cent drop in production from the same period in 2014. Consequences are far-reaching as not only Mindanao, but the rest of the country also depends on rice supplied from these areas. Serious concerns in food security may arise, considering Mindanao’s central provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani are the rice granary of southern Philippines.

Aside from crops, fisheries have been negatively affected as well by the extreme heat and prolonged drought. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), reports a 20 per cent decline in fish catch due to warmer waters, citing that at least 100,000 fisherfolk would need to look for alternative sources of income.

Another effect of the drought season is the threat of forest fires. Forests on Mt. Apo, Mt. Kanlaon and Bud Bongao have been decimated due to burning caused by both direct and indirect effects of El Niño. Fires on Mt. Kanlaon were reportedly ignited due to heat discharged from superheated rocks. Grass fires were also reported in General Santos and Cotabato City.

It is also forecast that the La Niña phenomenon will follow once the El Niño season has ended. La Niña is predicted to bring stronger monsoon and excessive rainfall resulting in flooding. This will obviously help with the drought situation but flooding will cause damage to crops and hinder replanting, hence exacerbating the current situation.

Philippines: Philippines: 29,000 people affected by drought in North Cotabato receive food aid

29 April 2016 - 2:53am
Source: International Committee of the Red Cross Country: Philippines

Manila (ICRC) – To help alleviate the plight of communities affected by the El Niño phenomenon, food rations were distributed to over 29,000 people in two drought-hit municipalities in North Cotabato province in central Mindanao.

In addition to facing the consequences of armed violence that has persisted for decades, thousands of farmers are now also bearing the brunt of drought as their farmlands are getting drier by the day.

"The last harvest was very poor for some farmers in North Cotabato; others experienced total crop failure. They have had difficulties coping, especially as they live in interior and upland villages," said Dominic Earnshaw, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Cotabato City.

"By providing food to the affected families, we aim to help them save their seeds for the next planting season," he explained.

On 26-30 April, the ICRC, together with the Philippine Red Cross, provided food to farming families from 15 far-flung villages in President Roxas and Magpet municipalities of North Cotabato.

The food rations – covering a family's needs for one month – consisted of 25 kilograms of rice, 24 tins of sardines, 2 liters of cooking oil, 2 liters of soy sauce, 2 kilograms of sugar and 1 kilogram of salt, as well as basic hygiene items.

"We have experienced drought in the past, but what is happening now is the worst. No one is spared. Our livelihoods are adversely affected," said 56-year-old Isias Buned, chief of Sundungan village in President Roxas, North Cotabato. "We never thought the Red Cross would deliver relief from the consequences of the dry spell."

The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose mandate is to protect and assist people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence. It has had an established presence in the Philippines for over 70 years and a permanent presence in Mindanao since 1982.

For further information, please contact:
Lany de la Cruz, ICRC Cotabato, tel: 0999 887 0985
Wolde-Gabriel Saugeron, ICRC Manila, tel: 0918 907 2125

World: El Nino dries up Asia as its stormy sister La Nina looms

28 April 2016 - 11:27pm
Source: Agence France-Presse Country: Cambodia, India, Malaysia, Palau, Philippines, Thailand, Viet Nam, World

Temerloh, Malaysia | Friday 4/29/2016 - 03:16 GMT

By Satish Cheney

Withering drought and sizzling temperatures from El Nino have caused food and water shortages and ravaged farming across Asia, and experts warn of a double-whammy of possible flooding from its sibling, La Nina.

The current El Nino which began last year has been one of the strongest ever, leaving the Mekong River at its lowest level in decades, causing food-related unrest in the Philippines, and smothering vast regions in a months-long heat wave often topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Economic losses in Southeast Asia could top $10 billion, IHS Global Insight told AFP.

The regional fever is expected to break by mid-year but fears are growing that an equally forceful La Nina will follow.

That could bring heavy rain to an already flood-prone region, exacerbating agricultural damage and leaving crops vulnerable to disease and pests.

"The situation could become even worse if a La Nina event -- which often follows an El Nino -- strikes towards the end of this year," Stephen O'Brien, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and relief, said this week.

He said El Nino has already left 60 million people worldwide requiring "urgent assistance," particularly in Africa.

Wilhemina Pelegrina, a Greenpeace campaigner on agriculture, said La Nina could be "devastating" for Asia, bringing possible "flooding and landslides which can impact on food production."

El Nino is triggered by periodic oceanic warming in the eastern Pacific Ocean which can trigger drought in some regions, heavy rain in others.

Much of Asia has been punished by a bone-dry heat wave marked by record-high temperatures, threatening the livelihoods of countless millions.

Millions left out to dry

Vietnam, one of the world's top rice exporters, has been particularly hard-hit by its worst drought in a century.

In the economically vital Mekong Delta bread basket, the mighty river's vastly reduced flow has left up to 50 percent of arable land affected by salt-water intrusion that harms crops and can damage farmland, said Le Anh Tuan, a professor of climate change at Can Tho University.

More than 500,000 people are short of drinking water, while hotels, schools and hospitals are struggling to maintain clean-water supplies.

Neighbouring Thailand and Cambodia also are suffering, with vast areas short of water and Thai rice output curbed.

In Malaysia, the extreme weather has shrunk reservoirs, dried up agricultural lands, forced water rationing in some areas, and caused repeated school closures as a health precaution.

Fisherman Abdul Rafar Matarrh said his daily catch in central Malaysia's Pahang River has been decimated as the normally broad river has shrunk to a third its size, leaving dead fish to rot in the dry bed.

"Last year I could catch about 20 kilos (44 pounds) of fish a day. Now, to get one kilo is very hard," said Abdul Rafar, 80, after netting just one small fish in an entire morning under an unforgiving sun.

In India, about 330 million people are at risk from water shortages and crop damage, the government said recently, and blazing temperatures have been blamed for scores of heat-stroke deaths and dead livestock.

Authorities in Palau warned recently the tiny Pacific island nation could completely dry up soon in a "total water outage".

'Things will get worse'

As a result, rice prices have risen this year but the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and other experts say a major food crisis is not yet imminent as stocks remain ample.

But warning signs have already emerged -- two people were killed in early April in the drought-ravaged southern Philippines when police reportedly clashed with thousands of farmers protesting over food shortages.

With La Nina looming, the situation has laid bare the region's lack of preparedness for the extreme weather swings expected to result from climate change, said Rajiv Biswas, Asia-Pacific Chief Economist at IHS Global Insight.

"What tends to happen is that they (governments) talk about it in the immediate time there is a crisis and then one year later they forget about it and move on," he said, adding that "things will get worse."

More investment is needed in agricultural infrastructure, irrigation and water storage systems, desalination technologies and insurance coverage for farmers, he said.

Calling the global situation "truly alarming", the UN's O'Brien said Tuesday this year's El Nino spotlights the need for global cooperation to brace against the extreme weather.

"We must respond quickly to immediate, life-threatening needs, but we must also help people to become more self-reliant, and build individual and community capacity to respond to future shocks," he said.

burs-skc/dma/kb

Philippines: DSWD to release P8.2M shelter aid for Iloilo town

28 April 2016 - 1:47pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

The Department of Social Welfare and Development –Field Office VI (DSWD-FO VI) will release the shelter assistance, amounting to P8.2 million, for the municipality of San Dionisio in Iloilo by the first week of May, assured DSWD- FO VI Regional Director Rebecca Geamala.

The Municipality of San Dionisio is one of those where the DSWD implements directly the payout of the shelter assistance in as much as the local government unit does not have exemption from the election ban.

The assistance will be released in partnership with a religious group in the town considering that it is election period.

Dir. Geamala met with the representatives of the different barangays of the town who flocked at the DSWD compound early Monday asking for clarification as to when will their shelter assistance be released.

“Even before you came to our office, we have already scheduled the release of the assistance for your town,” Dir. Geamala said.

The shelter assistance is intended for 828 families whose houses were partially damaged by Typhoon Yolanda which hit the Western Visayas Region in 2013.

Dir. Geamala explained that the delay in the release of the aid was due to the need to revalidate the list of beneficiaries after receiving complaints that families with totally damaged houses were classified under partially damaged and vice-versa.

Overall, DSWD-FO VI has released P8.2 billion in shelter assistance as of the first quarter of 2016. ###

World: WHO Zika Virus, Microcephaly and Guillain-Barré Syndrome Situation Report, 28 April 2016

28 April 2016 - 1:44pm
Source: World Health Organization Country: American Samoa, Argentina, Aruba (The Netherlands), Barbados, Belize, Bolivia (Plurinational State of), Bonaire, Saint Eustatius and Saba (The Netherlands), Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Chile, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao (The Netherlands), Dominica, Dominican Republic, Easter Island (Chile), Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, France, French Guiana (France), French Polynesia (France), Gabon, Guadeloupe (France), Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Jamaica, Malaysia, Maldives, Martinique (France), Mexico, Micronesia (Federated States of), New Caledonia (France), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Puerto Rico (The United States of America), Saint Lucia, Saint Martin (France), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sint Maarten (The Netherlands), Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Thailand, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, United States Virgin Islands, Vanuatu, Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), Viet Nam, World

ZIKA VIRUS DISEASE, MICROCEPHALY AND GUILLAIN-BARRÉ SYNDROME

 As of 27 April, 55 countries and territories report continuing mosquito-borne transmission; for 42 countries this is their first documented Zika virus outbreak (Fig. 1).

 Mosquito-borne transmission (Table 1):

 42 countries are experiencing a first outbreak of Zika virus since 2015, with no previous evidence of circulation, and with ongoing transmission by mosquitos.

 13 countries reported evidence of Zika virus transmission between 2007 and 2014, with ongoing transmission.

 Four countries or territories have reported an outbreak since 2015 that is now over:
Cook Islands, French Polynesia, ISLA DE PASCUA – Chile and YAP (Federated States of Micronesia.

 Person-to-person transmission (Table 2):

 Nine countries have reported evidence of person-to-person transmission of Zika virus, probably via a sexual route.

 In the week to 27 April, no additional countries reported mosquito-borne Zika virus transmission. Canada is the latest country to report person-to-person transmission.

 Microcephaly and other fetal malformations potentially associated with Zika virus infection or suggestive of congenital infection have been reported in six countries or territories (Table 3). Two cases, each linked to a stay in Brazil, were detected in Slovenia and the United States of America. One additional case, linked to a brief stay in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, was detected in a pregnant woman in the United States of America.

 In the context of Zika virus circulation, 13 countries and territories worldwide have reported an increased incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) and/or laboratory confirmation of a Zika virus infection among GBS cases (Table 4).

 Based on research to date, there is scientific consensus that Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and GBS.

 The global prevention and control strategy launched by the World Health Organization as a Strategic Response Framework encompasses surveillance, response activities and research. Key interventions are being undertaken jointly by WHO and international, regional and national partners in response to this public health emergency (Table 5).

 WHO has developed new advice and information on diverse topics in the context of Zika virus. WHO’s latest information materials, news and resources to support risk communication, and community engagement are available online.

Philippines: Decommissioned MILF combatants complete skills training, return to civilian lives

28 April 2016 - 1:40pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

SIMUAY, Sultan Kudarat, Apr. 29 -- Decommissioned members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are set to start a new chapter in their lives after graduating from their respective intensive skills training courses. The graduating batch was awarded their certificates of training completion in a simple ceremony held at the Old Provincial Capitol last April 25.

The trainings were provided by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and included courses on bread and pastry production, driving, carpentry, cookery, motorcycle/small engine repair, dressmaking/tailoring, automotive servicing, electrical installation and maintenance, welding, and entrepreneurship.

During the ceremony, Government Peace Panel Chair Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said that the decommissioned combatants play very important roles in the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB).

“[T]his is one way of showing your co-Filipinos that the MILF is sincere in its signed agreements with the government,” Ferrer said, as she addressed the graduates.

The Panel Chair also noted that even with the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the government and the MILF “are still here to continue what has been started,” highlighting the commitment of both parties to uphold the different components of the Bangsamoro peace process.

Meanwhile, MILF-Task Force for the Decommissioned Combatants and their Communities (TFDCC) Deputy Chief of Staff Hussein Munoz reminded the former combatants to be guided by the principles of “mujahideen” or “those on a personal struggle in devotion to Islam especially involving spiritual discipline.”

He called on them to “continue the peace process until the next administration” and to use their newly acquired skills to benefit their children, families, and communities.

Said training activities are components of the socio-economic programs under the Normalization Annex of the CAB--the peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF after more than 17 years of negotiations.

Following the completion of said trainings, the decommissioned MILF combatants will start to implement their business proposals under the Sustainable Livelihood Program from DSWD. Their proposals vary from setting up buy-and-sell businesses, putting up sari-sari stores, and requesting supplemental capital in support of their starter toolkits, among others.

To fully ensure a smooth implementation of their proposals, assistant development workers from DSWD will continue to provide technical assistance. On-the-job training placements in different business establishments in Maguindanao or Cotabato City will also be facilitated.

Furthermore, farming/fishery assistance from the Department of Agrarian Reform and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will be awarded towards the third quarter of the year.

Such undertakings, according to Ferrer, prove that “the government, through its different participating line agencies, remains committed in delivering what have been agreed upon under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.”

The decommissioning process of the MILF is part of the signed CAB. Its first phase was completed last June 2015 where 145 combatants were registered and 75 high-powered and crew-serve weapons were turned over to the government. This milestone was immensely acclaimed by the international community and is one of the reasons why the Philippines is seen as a world model in peace processes.

Once a Bangsamoro Basic Law is passed in Congress, several thousands of MILF combatants and weapons will be processed for decommissioning. All decommissioned combatants will receive the same socio-economic packages and training opportunities that would enable them to transition to productive, civilian lives. (OPAPP)

Philippines: WFP Philippines Country Brief, March 2016

28 April 2016 - 10:09am
Source: World Food Programme Country: Philippines

Highlights

  • 105,000 people in Luzon and Mindanao were provided with food and cash assistance in March to improve their food security.

  • WFP has been providing technical support to the Government in conducting the Emergency Food Security Assessment to assess the impact of El Niño in Mindanao.

  • Ongoing military operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in Mindanao triggers sporadic armed encounters which impact WFP operations in the area.

WFP Assistance

The PRRO targets around half a million people affected by protracted conflict in Central Mindanao as well as typhoon-affected communities in Visayas and Mindanao. The assistance is tailored to reach the most vulnerable in areas where poverty, nutrition and basic education indicators remain well below the national average. WFP supports internally displaced people and returnees through marketsensitive food assistance-for-assets options, school meals, and stunting prevention programmes for children under two years of age and pregnant and nursing women.

Through the Disaster Preparedness and Response Programme under this PRRO, WFP implements initiatives such as capacity development trainings, installation of early warning systems, and community-based risk mitigation activities, to support local government units, academic institutions, civil society and NGOs in strengthening disaster preparedness and risk reduction mechanisms.
This operation also features capacity augmentation and policy development components to optimise the disaster response structures and policy frameworks of the Government of the Philippines in support of the Philippine Development Plan (2011–2016).

The Special Operation aims to enhance the disaster response capability of the Government of the Philippines in areas of logistics and supply chain management to ensure that WFP is ready to activate response options at scale in a timely manner and in alignment with government relief mechanisms.
Building on the key learnings from the Typhoon Haiyan emergency in 2013/2014, the operation aims to mitigate potential implementation bottlenecks and challenges as identified during the large-scale humanitarian response.

The establishment of a network of disaster response facilities in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, in support of an improved and decentralised emergency response network, is a key element of the operation. WFP also provides technical assistance and trainings for government counterparts on practical, operational and strategic logistics.

Philippines: The Philippines: Militancy rising in Mindanao as peace talks stall

28 April 2016 - 9:29am
Source: IRIN Country: Philippines

Jared Ferrie

The island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines is rich in resources as well as population diversity. It is also home to a violent patchwork of sometimes-overlapping armed groups. These include Islamist revolutionaries as well as extremist militants, communist rebels, paramilitaries, clan-based private armies, and networks of organised crime.

Read the full report here.