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Philippines: Int'l community supports milestones in Bangsamoro peace process

17 January 2016 - 3:24am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MANILA, Jan. 17 -- Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles expressed her gratitude to the support and attention that the international community is giving to the Bangsamoro peace process, noting that these indicate the level of success the Philippine government has achieved in pushing peace in Mindanao.

"The level we have on our interchange and conversations with other countries regarding the Mindanao peace process is different (from the local mood)," Deles said in a meeting with media on January 12. "Some of the works that we have done caught the interest of the international community."

Deles said that such level of international discourse on the Bangsamoro peace process has not happened before in any of the government’s previous peace tables. She said the level of attention and engagement of the international community in connection with the Bangsamoro peace process, only showed that the negotiations are progressive and productive.

“This is a milestone in the peace process. What we went (through) last year only showed the profound understanding of the (interested) sectors on the peace negotiations,” Deles said.

During a visit to the Philippines in July 2015, Colombian Ambassador Tito Saul Pinilla said his government considers the decommissioning and normalization processes being implemented by the Philippine government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a model in the ongoing peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the rebel group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).

“The situation in the Philippines between the government and the MILF is the same with the Colombian government and the FARC,” Pinilla said. “After 25 years of armed conflict, we have come to the peace table and it came to our interest on how the Philippines did the ceremonial decommissioning.”

Last June 16, 145 MILF combatants and 75 crew-serve and high-powered weapons were decommissioned in simple ceremonies in Sultan Kudarat to signal Phase I of the normalization process under the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro signed between the Philippine government and the MILF.

The International Decommissioning Body (IDB), a multinational independent body led by Turkey, supervised the decommissioning process of the MILF forces and weapons as stipulated in the CAB.

Other countries in conflict-situations like Thailand and Myanmar have also sent delegations to study the Bangsamoro peace process.

In July last year, 16 members of the Afghanistan High Peace Council (HPC) went to the Philippines to study the peace process, especially in upholding the role of women in the peace talks.

New York-based International Peace Institute (IPI) hailed both Deles and GPH chief peace negotiator Professor Miriam Coronel-Ferrer as ideal women peacemakers for their key roles in the government peace talks with the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the MILF.

Deles is the country’s first woman presidential peace adviser while Ferrer is the first female to chair the MILF peace negotiations and the first female chief negotiator in the world to sign a major peace agreement.

Ferrer also accepted the 2015 Hillary Clinton Award for Advancing Women in Peace and Security held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. The said award honors Ferrer for her “indefatigable work to bring about peace in the Philippines and for (her) historic role as the first female chief negotiator to sign a comprehensive peace agreement.” (OPAPP)

World: Over 12 million children have better educational opportunities through IKEA Foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF partnership

15 January 2016 - 9:58pm
Source: UN Children's Fund, Save the Children Country: Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, Philippines, Viet Nam, World

NEW YORK, 15 January, 2016 – More than 12 million children in over 46 countries have better schools, teachers and learning materials, thanks to a 13-year partnership between the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF.

Since 2003, the IKEA Foundation’s ‘Soft Toys for Education’ campaign has contributed €88 million to Save the Children and UNICEF, helping to increase school attendance for some of the world’s most marginalized and vulnerable children. Funds have also helped train teachers, provide educational materials and improve child protection systems in schools and communities.

“Education is the most solid road leading out of poverty. All children have the right to an education but still too many are left behind. Partnering with UNICEF and Save the Children for 13 years has allowed us to address this issue strategically and invest in improving the quality of education in some of the world’s poorest communities—and we’re incredibly grateful to the IKEA customers and co-workers who have worked so hard to make that right a reality for over 12 million children,” said Per Heggenes, CEO IKEA Foundation

In Ethiopia, funds from the IKEA Foundation have helped UNICEF reach children in rural farming communities with basic education. The flexible schooling model has been so successful that the Ethiopian government has rolled it out nationally.

In China, IKEA Foundation funding helped develop early-childhood development centres for disadvantaged children living in selected rural communities. The impact of these centres on children’s lives contributed to the Government of China’s decision to universalize preschool education.

“UNICEF is grateful to the IKEA Foundation, IKEA co-workers and customers for the commitment demonstrated over the past 13 years to help transform children’s lives through education,” said UNICEF Global Chief of Education Josephine Bourne. “We will continue to build on these achievements so that many more of the world’s most vulnerable and marginalized children are given the opportunity to build a better future for themselves and their families through education.”

With the support of the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children has worked in 17 countries in Asia and Europe to provide educational opportunities for previously out-of-school children, to improve the learning environment and to train teachers on child-centred, nonviolent, and inclusive teaching methodology.

In Bangladesh, the Philippines and Vietnam, Save the Children has, together with education authorities and civil society organizations, supported policy reform and practices to ensure that children from minority groups learn in a language they understand.

“Education is a human right and the means by which to equip children with the skills and knowledge they need to thrive in the world. It also saves lives, protects and builds peace. Save the Children is extremely grateful for the partnership we have with the IKEA Foundation and the support we receive from IKEA employees and customers around the globe. Together, we have made an enormous difference for children with disabilities and children from ethnic minority groups, and Save the Children will not rest until all children have the opportunity to learn,” said David Skinner, Director of Save the Children’s Education Global Initiative.

Although the Soft Toys for Education campaign has ended its successful run, the IKEA Foundation will continue its commitment to UNICEF and Save the Children through ongoing grants in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia in the areas of education, early-childhood care and development, child protection, adolescence and humanitarian response.

Notes to editors

Behind these figures are the individual stories of teachers and children like May Yoi Ching Marma in Bangladesh, Naima in the Philippines, Nokolunga in South Africa and Jan Sankoh in Sierra Leone. Save the Children
The story of Naima in Mindanao, the Philippines https://www.savethechildren.net/save-children-ikea-foundation-partnership-case-study-philippines

The story of May Yoi Ching in Bangladesh
https://www.savethechildren.net/save-children-ikea-foundation-partnership-case-study-bangladesh

UNICEF

The story of Nokulunga in South Africa
http://www.unicef.org/esaro/5440_south-africa_day-of-the-girl-child.html

Studying despite the Ebola outbreak Sierra Leone
http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/sierraleone_81528.html

About IKEA Foundation

The IKEA Foundation (Stichting IKEA Foundation) is the philanthropic arm of INGKA Foundation, the owner of the IKEA Group of companies. We aim to improve opportunities for children and youth in some of the world’s poorest communities by funding holistic, long-term programmes that can create substantial, lasting change. The IKEA Foundation works with strong strategic partners applying innovative approaches to achieve large-scale results in four fundamental areas of a child’s life: a place to call home; a healthy start in life; a quality education; and a sustainable family income, while helping these communities fight and cope with climate change.

Learn more at www.ikeafoundation.org and www.facebook.com/IKEAfoundation.

About IKEA Group

Our vision is to create a better everyday life for people and we offer well designed, functional and affordable, high-quality home furnishings, produced with care for people and the environment. The IKEA Group has 315 stores in 27 countries. In addition, more than 40 stores are run by franchisees outside the IKEA Group. The IKEA Group had 716 million visitors during FY14 and 1.5 billion people visited www.ikea.com.

About Save the Children

Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organization for children, delivering programmes and improving children’s lives in more than 120 countries worldwide. Working towards a world in which every child attains the right to survival, protection, development and participation, Save the Children’s mission is to inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives. Learn more at www.savethechildren.net and www.facebook.com/savethechildren.

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit http://www.unicef.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Join UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook

For further information, please contact:

IKEA Foundation
Radu Dumitrascu, Tel: +31 6 5569 8570, email: Radu.Dumitrascu@IKEAfoundation.org

Save the Children
Suzanne Standfast, Tel: +46 733 553 431, email: Suzanne.standfast@rb.se

UNICEF
Tania Dhakhwa, Tel: +41 22 909 5243, email: tdhakhwa@unicef.org

World: Finding Ways Together to Build Resilience: The Vulnerability and Risk Assessment methodology

15 January 2016 - 6:58am
Source: Oxfam Country: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Botswana, Ghana, Myanmar, Philippines, World

Oxfam's Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (VRA) tool develops a holistic, landscape-wide understanding of vulnerability and links up actors across various levels of governance to jointly identify and analyse root causes of vulnerabilities for distinct social groups and later design programmes and risk reduction initiatives accordingly, ensuring that they are equitable, gender-sensitive and effective.

Attention to historical and evolving power dynamics is fully embedded into the design of the VRA, primarily through the convening of a Knowledge Group to inspire and drive the analysis.

The VRA methodology has been implemented by Oxfam and its partners in twelve countries and by other aid and research organizations, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the University of Cape Town and the University of Botswana.

Philippines: ‘ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers’ - Repairing homes and lives in the Philippines

14 January 2016 - 7:12pm
Source: ShelterBox Country: Philippines

Just before Christmas, category 4 Typhoon Melor caused catastrophic damage to the region of Northern Samar in the Philippines. Homes, crops and livelihoods were totally destroyed in many communities.

ShelterBox has been aiding the recovery by working with French aid agency ACTED to provide vital shelter materials and tools to 400 families in the areas of Palapag and Mapanas.

These two areas were the hardest hit by the typhoon. No home escaped damage, and at least half of them were destroyed completely.

Mercedes Arca and her husband Valentin, who at 82 is the second oldest person in the island vilalage of Binaly, were just one of the families to lose their home to Typhoon Melor.

Mercedes told us that before the typhoon came, they were warned to seek the safety of higher ground and even to consider leaving their island home, which is where the couple were both born and raised. However, they had heard this warning many times in the past and the little island had always escaped the worst of the storms.

The couple decided to stay, but after a night of heavy rains the wind started blowing so hard that the roof began to come apart. At this point, they fled their home to the local primary school. More than 400 people crammed into the two concrete buildings as the storm raged overhead.

Miraculously, none of the villagers were hurt, but more than 120 homes had been destroyed or badly damaged. There was nothing left of Mercedes and Valentin’s house.

Mercedes was devastated, as they had no way of rebuilding again. She said: ‘What are we going to do? We are so old and have no money.’ But when the ShelterBox team, made up of Andrew Clark (UK) and Bill Woodard (US) provided the couple with materials to rebuild their home, she was overjoyed. She said: ‘Thank you, thank you. ShelterBox was the answer to my prayers.’

ShelterBox provided each family with locally sourced equipment including a hammer, a saw, a shovel and corrugated iron sheeting, which can be used as for walls and roofing materials.

In this video, Tom Tejano, the Mayor of Mapanas, explains what happened to the area when the typhoon hit, and how ShelterBox aid will help people to recover from the devastation.

The team worked with ACTED to combine distributions of aid with education on the equipment. Community members were not only shown the different ways that the materials could be used, but also ways in which they could build back safer, making them more resilient in the face of future storms.

ShelterBox has responded to 20 disasters in the Philippines in the past six years, most recently after Typhoon Hagupit in December 2014, but has never worked in this area of Northern Samar before. Together with ACTED, ShelterBox was the first organisation to reach these communities and give them the tools to rebuild their homes and lives.

World: Asia Pacific Food Price and Policy Monitor, December 2015 - Issue 28

14 January 2016 - 6:40am
Source: Food and Agriculture Organization Country: Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, China - Taiwan Province, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Viet Nam, World

HIGHLIGHTS

General inflation in the region was estimated at 2.3 percent, and food price inflation at 2.6 percent in November compared to one year ago.

  • In China, prices for fresh vegetables rose as unusually cold weather in November hampered transport and disrupted supplies to markets.

  • In Indonesia, drought conditions linked to El Niño over large parts of the country resulted in major delays in planting of the main season crops.

  • The Philippines approved US$ 404.1 million in spending to counter the effects of El Niño.

  • Mongolia released its State Policy on Food and Agriculture 2016 - 2025, emphasizing a shift to sustainable livestock practices and the expansion of arable land for crops.

  • India pledged to restore 13 million hectares of degraded forestland, in an announcement on the sidelines of the COP21 United Nations Climate Summit in Paris in December.

REGIONAL OVERVIEW

FOOD AND GENERAL INFLATION

General inflation in the region was estimated at 2.3 percent, and food price inflation at 2.6 percent in November compared to one year ago.

In November, general inflation in Bangladesh declined by 0.1 percent and food inflation by 0.4 percent. In China, consumer and food prices remained unchanged from the previous month. Price increases for fresh fruits and vegetables were offset by price declines for meat, poultry and eggs.

In India, general inflation was up 0.6 percent, and food prices rose 0.4 percent on more expensive pulses and spices.

In Indonesia, general inflation was up 0.2 percent, and food prices increased 0.3 percent on rising prices for rice and chicken meat. In Pakistan, general and food price inflation rose 0.5 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively, as prices for chicken, tomatoes, onions and potatoes increased. In the Philippines, general and food price inflation inched up by 0.5 percent and 1 percent, respectively.

Samoa’s general inflation increased by 0.5 percent, and food prices rose 1.6 percent, driven by higher prices for taro, ta’amu, and fresh fish. Sri Lanka’s general inflation was up 1.4 percent and food price inflation increased 3 percent on price increases for vegetables and green chillies.

In Thailand, general and food price inflation were down 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. Viet Nam’s general inflation rose by 0.7 percent, and food prices increased by less than 0.1 percent.

Malaysia: Dengue Situation Update 482, 13 January 2016

13 January 2016 - 11:38pm
Source: World Health Organization Country: Australia, Cambodia, China, French Polynesia (France), Lao People's Democratic Republic (the), Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Viet Nam

Northern Hemisphere

China

As of 31 December, there were 3,884 cases of dengue reported in 2015 for China, with majority of the cases being reported during September and October. From 1 to 31 December 2015, 62 dengue cases were reported with no associated deaths. The number of cases in the month of December decreased sevenfold compared to the number reported in the previous month (n=470) and lower than the number of cases reported in December 2014 (n=180) (Figure 1).

Malaysia (no update)

As of 5 December, there were 111,285 cases of dengue with 301 deaths reported in Malaysia for 2015. This is 16.3% higher compared with the same reporting period of 2014 (n=95,693). From 29 November to 5 December 2015, there were 2,119 cases of dengue reported, which is higher than the previous week (n=2,087).

Philippines (no update)

As of 21 November 2015, there were 169,435 suspected cases of dengue, including 511 deaths, reported in Philippines. This is 59.5% higher compared with the same reporting period in 2014 (n=106,241) (Figure 3).

From 15 to 21 November 2015 (week 46), there were 548 suspected cases of dengue reported. (NOTE: Case counts reported here do not represent the final number and will change after inclusion of delayed reports)

Singapore

A total of 11,298 cases of dengue have been reported in Singapore for 2015 (data up to week 52 ending 2 January 2016), 61% lower than the number of cases reported in 2014 (n=18,168) for the same reporting period. From 27 December 2015 to 2 January 2016, 459 dengue cases were reported, higher than the previous week (n=372) and higher than the number reported for the same period in each of the last four years (2011-2014) (Figure 4). From November 2015, weekly case numbers have continued to increase in a trend that is not expected for the season.

Cambodia

As of 29 December 2015, there were 15,412 cases of dengue, including 38 deaths [CFR=0.2%], reported in Cambodia. The number of cases is decreasing and it follows a similar trend to that observed in 2011 to 2014.

In the week ending 29 December 2015, there were 183 cases reported, which is higher than the previous week (n=65) (Figure 5).

Lao PDR

As of 25 December, there were 1,952 cases of dengue and no deaths reported in Lao PDR for 2015. From 19 to 25 December 2015, 40 dengue cases were reported, which is higher than the previous week (n=36) (Figure 6). There is no country level alert for the week ending 25 December 2015.

Viet Nam (no update)

As of 30 November 2015, there were 79,912 cases of dengue, including 53 deaths, reported in 53 out of 63 provinces in Viet Nam. The cumulative number of cases reported in 2015 is higher than cases reported in 2014 for the same reporting period and is also higher than the median in 2010-2014 for the same period (Figure 7). In November, there were 20,910 cases reported including 10 deaths. Compared to October (18,754 cases and 10 deaths), the number of cases reported increased by 11.5%.

Southern Hemisphere

Australia

As of 31 December 2015, there were 1,667 laboratory-confirmed dengue cases in Australia. In 2015, 65 cases were reported in December. This is lower than the same reporting period of last year (n=107). The number of reported cases was consistent with previous years (n=1721 in 2014) and follows seasonal trend (Figure 8).

Pacific Islands Countries and Areas

French Polynesia (no update)

In the week ending 29 November 2015, 24 confirmed dengue cases were reported in French Polynesia (Figure 9).
Dengue virus serotype-1 has been identified in circulation.

Philippines: Typhoon Melor: Update on the emergency situation

13 January 2016 - 11:05am
Source: Agency for Technical Cooperation and Development Country: Philippines

Typhoon Melor (also locally knows as Nona) struck the Philippines on December 14th 2015, killing 42 people and causing important damages, and generating some huge needs in the typhoon-affected areas. In the Northern Samar province, where the typhoon made landfall, almost 41,700 houses were totally damaged, 140 families evacuated, and various municipalities were flooded.

ACTED teams conducted needs assessment in the municipalities of Mapanas and Palapag, Northen Samar, which have been particularly heavily affected and hadn’t received any assistance, despite huge needs. The most important needs are emergency shelter assistance, such as the provision of tarpaulin and shelter repair kits. In those two municipalities, 100% of the houses have been damaged and are either partially or totally destroyed! Access to water, hygiene and sanitation facilities, food relief assistance are other priorities that need to be tackled. Some skin diseases and dengue fever caused by the resulting insalubrity were notably identified by ACTED early assessment team, highlighting the need for quick relief.

Beyond emergency relief, livelihoods need also to be supported. A majority of households in Palapag and Mapanas rely on coconut and rice farming and on fisheries. But these activities were severely affected by the typhoon, leaving people vulnerable and without any income, deprived of their main source of living. A majority of the population now relies on food relief assistance, and without any support provided to the communities to recover their livelihoods, the area could face a food security crisis in the coming months.

An emergency response by ACTED team on the ground

ACTED is the only NGO intervening in these municipalities, and our teams were on the ground just a few days after Melor struck. During the assessment of needs, relief items were distributed to those in need: 1,200 water purification kits on the 25th of December. ACTED has also been distrusting hygiene kits and 400 shelter repair kits with the support of ShelterBox. Aid operations by ACTED have been further supported through a partnership agreement with UNICEF to increase the provision of latrines repair kits, additional shelter repair kits and tarpaulins. ACTED team in the Philippines is currently discussing with partners on the field to plan a potential response for the houses that have been totally destroyed and need to be rebuilt.

A catastrophe reminding previous typhoons

The country has suffered several disasters, as Melor is the 18th typhoon of the annual typhoon season. The infrastructures destruction exacerbates an already difficult situation in a previouslyafflicted area. The damages in terms of shelter are even bigger than after last super typhoon Koppu (locally known as Lando), which killed 48 people in October 2015. Also, prior to Melor, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities were already damaged in coastal located houses. Samar region was also one of the most devastated areas after super typhoon Haiyan (also called Yolanda), which struck the country in 2013 with devastating impacts, causing unprecedented damages, human and material losses. At the time, 550.000 houses were destroyed and almost 600.000 houses damaged.

ACTED has a presence in the Philippines since 2013 when typhoon Bopha struck the country. Our teams act for the mitigation of climate change effects, specifically since super typhoon Haiyan, and is planning on leading other projects in the country.

World: Slum socio-ecology: an exploratory characterisation of vulnerability to climate-change related disasters in the urban context

12 January 2016 - 10:55pm
Source: Harvard University Country: Philippines, World

Published: Jan 2016

As cities, especially coastal megacities, continue to grow often through rapid unplanned urbanization, populations are increasingly concentrated in climate change-affected hazard-prone spaces. How these populations interact with their environments will ultimately influence their vulnerability to climate-related disaster. Yet the interdependence between human and environmental systems, especially in the urban slum context, is under-researched and represents an important gap in our understanding. Using a socio-ecological system approach provides a holistic framework to understand vulnerability.

Philippines: DA gears up for cloud seeding operations

12 January 2016 - 9:48pm
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

KORONADAL CITY, South Cotabato, Jan 12 (PIA) — The regional field office of the Department of Agriculture here eyes to begin cloud seeding operations next week, an official of the agency confirmed.

Zaldy Boloron, regional technical director for operations of DA 12 confirmed in a radio interview that personnel from the Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM) are here to conduct final assessment prior to the cloud seeding.

“Next week, we could immediately begin cloud seeding,” he said.

Cloud seeding is a process of manually spreading salt or dry ice on clouds to help trigger precipitation and induce rain.

DA has identified cloud seeding as one of the mitigating measures against the effects of El Nino phenomenon.

Initially, according to Boloron, DA will conduct at least 10 cloud seeding sorties across different parts of SOCCSKSARGEN Region, targeting areas that are most affected by the prevailing dry spell such as Sarangani and South Cotabato provinces.

Each flight, he estimated, costs Php45,000.

Specifically for the cloud seeding operations, DA 12 has allotted Php 6 million, Boloron said.

Last week, Provincial Agriculturist Justina Navarrete confirmed that an estimated 7,000 hectares of rainfed corn and rice farms in South Cotabato are in danger of losing production if the dry spell persists.

She, however, assured that supply is sufficient for the irrigated areas.

In a report in December, last year, Regional Executive Director Amalia Jayag-Datukan announced that DA 12 has earmarked Php44 million for various interventions to counter the adverse effects of El Nino.

These interventions include, seeds and other relief assistance that could help farmers restart their production activities and recover losses from the dry spell.

Apart from these aids, DA 12 and partner agencies and local government units conducted activities to help farmers prepare against the effects of El Nino.(DEDoguiles-PIA 12)

Philippines: Recovering from Yolanda, one step at a time

12 January 2016 - 3:15am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

At-risk populations—the poor, powerless, and vulnerable—play an enormous part at every level of government anti-poverty and development work. They are the primary focus of the 26 government agencies that make up the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster. They are also squarely in the cross-hairs of every natural disaster that hits the country, with those capable of moving to safer locations generally glad that they can still do so.

But this is the Philippines, so we know that, despite our best efforts, our most faithfully implemented policies are always under threat from natural disasters. Every such disaster not only impacts the poor in its path; it also impacts programs and strategies designed to draw as many members of that at-risk population as possible out of the situation that makes them most vulnerable. In what Cluster Chair Dinky Soliman calls the “new normal,” we know that some of the very places and people we are trying to help will get hit—often hard hit—especially since they have the fewest resources with which to recover.

One of the biggest challenges that the Aquino administration—and the next one to follow—will face is how to reduce poverty and increase employment and livelihood opportunities in a situation where the country is perennially devastated by natural calamities. They hurt our just-passed quest for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, just as they will surely impede the new Strategic Development Goals that the next administration will strive to meet.

It certainly helps that the Supreme Court has (finally) passed on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law—giving long-term hope that our burgeoning population growth might abate. (But the disturbing political ploy by some legislators to starve the legally-mandated DoH contraception program of funds ‘for political gain’ actually damages the nation’s economy and—even worse—increases the suffering of the poor.) Likewise, children educated with the help of Conditional Cash Transfers will graduate, improving the capabilities of our workforce. If top-down economic growth can be maintained, we can hope unemployment will continue—and accelerate—its slight downward trend. (Unemployment is down almost a whole percentage point from last year—from 2014’s 6.5% to this year’s 5.6%.)

Without a doubt, Typhoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) has been one of the biggest crises faced by the Aquino administration, particularly in terms of addressing joblessness and poverty itself. Certainly, there were a number of significant failures all round: the lack of preparation and poor coordination between national and local government agencies, which resulted in decimated infrastructure and livelihoods, and in a colossal number of human casualties. The snail-paced allocation of budget also caused one-third of recovery and reconstruction projects–including permanent shelters, roads and jobs–to remain idle. At the same time, the constant emphasis to help the living resulted in the poor management and identification of the dead. There was also the problem of lack of refrigeration facilities and public morgues. Finally, concerned government institutions often failed to take advantage of expert services and modern DNA laboratory facilities that were offered by the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital.

But though you wouldn’t know it from the public claims of most of our presidential candidates—faithfully magnified by media—Yolanda recovery and reconstruction has also made gains and passed milestones at a rate that has elicited favorable comment from various countries and international organizations.

A January 2016 paper published by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs quotes Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan with distinct approval. The report says that the physical accomplishments “of completed and ongoing Yolanda programs, projects and activities now stands at 63.2%—30.3% completed and 33.1% ongoing. Most of the ongoing projects are scheduled for completion by 2016.”

Almost 95% of all affected airports are now rehabilitated; almost 96% of first-batch municipal facilities—such as civic centers, municipal halls and public markets—have been rehabilitated, as well as 89% of the damaged bridges and 72% of damaged roads. Accomplishments like these were unheard of as recently as the Aceh tsunami disaster of 2004, where the Indonesians took over ten years to recover. One thing about the “new normal”: we are certainly learning a lot about disaster preparedness and response.

But no one in anti-poverty and development can ever afford to allow their eyes to stray from the people and the quality of their lives. The ongoing distribution of Emergency Shelter Assistance reached 788,747 households (76.3% of the 1,033,827 families targeted); of the 54,825 targeted fisherfolk beneficiaries, 89.4% have had their fishing boats repaired or replaced—distribution of tackle and gear has already exceeded targets; 85.7% of the rice and corn seeds for the next harvest have already been distributed to farmers. These are big, powerful programs—and yet many can be left in want—either from having to wait or from not “fitting in.”

Many residents from Leyte province—the most Yolanda-devastated area—have found themselves without sources of livelihood. One government response has been the Accelerated and Sustainable Anti-Poverty Program (ASAPP) by the government’s Poverty Cluster.

Aimed at giving typhoon victims reason to hope once again, ASAPP is a concerted effort by national government agencies dealing with poverty and development to provide more livelihood ventures for poor families in identified provinces, cities, and municipalities all over the country.

Part of the ASAPP poverty reduction framework is the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), a community-based effort to improve participants’ socio-economic status through capacity building. For 2015, SLP targeted about 90,078 beneficiaries in Leyte for a total funding of P547,699,392. SLP is implemented through two tracks: Micro-Enterprise Development and Employment Facilitation.

Micro-Enterprise Development supports micro-enterprises’ organizational and economic viability by providing capital assistance to Employment Facilitation, which helps participants access appropriate employment opportunities. Both tracks are based on the Community-Driven Enterprise Development approach—equipping people to actively contribute to production and labor markets by looking at available resources and accessible markets.

Abuyog, Leyte is an ASAPP recipient. It is a first class municipality in the province of Leyte with a population of 57,146. With its land area of 688.2 square kilometers, it is the largest town in Leyte.

Getting back on their feet

For Yolanda-affected families, starting a new life is neither easy nor fast, but determination, perseverance, and a commitment to regain normalcy are driving factors for many—including three women beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program: Leslie de la Serna, Josephine Lleve, and Emee Montesclaros—all from Abuyog. These women reaped gains from the ASAPP program’s focus on livelihood generation through SLP.

Before Yolanda, the three women concentrated only on household chores and taking care of their children. But, becoming beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilya—and later on, of SLP—significantly affected their lives,opening doors of opportunity and paving the way for their active participation in community affairs.

They now serve as volunteers, helping to implement other DSWD programs and projects.

Leslie, 31, from Barangay Sta. Fe, narrates that she earns income as a Barangay Health Worker (BHW), receiving P500.00 monthly. “My earnings as a BHW and the cash grants we receive for the health and education of our three children is a big help to our family.” She is also a Pantawid Pamilya parent leader handling Family Development Sessions—a regular activity participated in by the program’s partner-beneficiaries—and is a leader of the local chapter of Samaritan’s Purse, a non-governmental organization that provides food, water, shelter, medicine and other assistance to victims of armed conflict, disaster, famine and epidemics. Leslie is also became a member of the SLP-organized Yolanda Micro-Enterprise Association, which operates a mini-grocery selling low-priced grocery items.

The group was able to avail of an interest-free loan to start operations in August, 2015. Their first sale amounted to P500.00. The sales of their mini-grocery now average P4,000.00 per month. Gradually, the family income has increased, enabling them to meet not only their daily needs and expenses, but also those of their neighbors.

“The mini-grocery that we opened also helped the villagers since they no longer have to go to Tacloban to buy grocery items. The products that we sell are also cheaper,” Leslie proudly shared.

Josephine, 43, of Barangay Sto. Nino, narrates, “Before Yolanda, we had our own garden with okra, ampalaya, upo, and patola. We earned extra income from selling our vegetable garden’s harvest.”

Recently, Josephine and 11 other women from their village received capital assistance of P120,000.00 from DSWD’s SLP. They used this money to start a mini–grocery, where fellow Pantawid Pamilya members bought their children’s school needs and food.

“DSWD didn’t leave us. After Yolanda, we received relief goods. Our children are now even more interested in schooling,” she added.

Likewise, Emee, 38, of Barangay Balocawe says,“As a parent–leader of Pantawid Pamilya, I tried to motivate my fellow members not to depend solely on the cash grants given by the program.”

Emee and her husband, Clyde, 44, work hard to provide for their children’s needs. They also produce and sell tuba—coconut wine—as an additional source of income. Besides this, Emee and six of her neighbors are now starting an SLP-funded piggery.

But even while the poor communities of Abuyog have received assistance from SLP, questions have been raised about it. One is whether the DSWD has the competency to actually implement a program of employment-generation and livelihood assistance. The agency has addressed this need for expanding competencies by partnering with other line agencies such as the Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Agrarian Reform. These institutional linkages help bridge the demands of poor communities for skills development and support services, while at the same time fostering labor, microenterprise and market linkages.

Much—perhaps too much—has been made of Filipino resiliency. Is it necessarily a good thing, one wonders? Is it lauded as a collective quality to absolve the state of its responsibility to provide for its citizens’ needs? The Oxford English Dictionary points out the etymology of “resilience” from the Latin resilire, “to rebound, recoil,” and defines it as “the power to recover,” “the ability of something to bend, then spring back to its original state.” That is certainly what has happened with the people of Leyte, and many others like them who were devastated by climate disasters and are daily bent, sometimes broken, by the impoverished conditions of everyday life. While government programs are important for redrawing the conditions under which they labor, their success hinge precisely on people’s ability to respond to and recuperate from their misfortune. But in the same vein, resilience is never enough. It is up to government—both national and local–to harness that very capability to recover.

World: Asia-Pacific Region: El Niño Snapshot (as of January 2016)

12 January 2016 - 3:01am
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Fiji, Indonesia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, World

Current conditions and forecast

Oceanic and atmospheric indicators suggest the 2015/2016 El Niño has peaked with a return to neutral conditions expected during the second quarter of 2016. However, countries continue to feel the effects of El Niño which include below average precipitation during the rainy season, more intense cyclones in the North-Western Pacific and potentially more frequent cyclones in the South Pacific over the coming weeks, as well as drought in South and South-East Asia.

Historical records of previous El Niño events suggest that the likelihood of the current El Niño being followed by La Niña is the same as a return to neutral conditions, during the second half of 2016. Should it occur, La Niña could exacerbate the negative effects in countries that have experienced El Niño conditions.

Impact and response

PAPUA NEW GUINEA

2.7 million people affected by drought and severe frost

The Government estimates that more than 2.7 million people out of the country’s population of 7.3 million are affected by prolonged drought and severe frost. This includes 522,000 people in the most severely affected districts. Priority needs include food, water and agricultural recovery support. With many affected communities living in remote areas, access remains a key issue. Some previously affected areas in the Highlands and Momase regions have received intermittent rains. Other areas along the southern coastal provinces and islands continue to experience lower than average rainfall. The Government activated the National Disaster Centre (NDC) and has allocated over US$66.5 million for the response.

TIMOR-LESTE

up to 50% of Timor-Leste could be food and water insecure by the second quarter of 2016

According to an early assessment, up to 220,000 people may be affected by February/March 2016, should El Niño effects emerge as predicted and the harvests fail. Oecusse, Atauro and Metinaro districts in the northern part of the country are likely to be most affected. Based on historical data as well as current climatic projections, the Humanitarian Country Team estimates that up to 50 per cent of the area of Timor-Leste could potentially become food and water insecure by the second quarter of 2016. More detailed analysis and assessments are needed. The Government is stockpiling 7,000 MT of rice and sensitizing farmers and rural population on the potential impact through key messages.

El Niño and La Niña

El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle. While El Niño is characterized by warmer than average waters in the Eastern Equatorial Pacific, La Niña is caused by below average sea surface temperature. Generally speaking the meteorological effects of La Niña are the opposite of El Niño. In areas where El Niño brings too little water and increased temperatures, often La Niña will bring too much precipitation and decreased temperatures.

THE PHILIPPINES

85% of all provinces likely to experience drought by the end of April 2016

A strong El Niño prevailed in the Philippines in the fourth quarter of 2015 and is expected to continue throughout February 2016. The Government of the Philippines forecasts significantly below-normal rainfall in most parts of the country from January to April. While Typhoons Koppu (October) and Melor (December) and the northeast monsoon brought a respite from drought, 68 out of 81 provinces nationwide will likely experience drought by April. FAO estimated in December that severe damage to farms, fisheries and forests may directly affect more than 12 million Filipinos relying on agriculture as a primary source of livelihood.

MONGOLIA

50 districts in 16 provinces experiencing dzud conditions

The Government of Mongolia conducted winter assessments in all 21 provinces of Mongolia from 16 to 28 December 2015 and concluded that a total of 50 districts in 16 provinces are experiencing dzud conditions, which is a summer drought followed by a severe winter. Another 120 districts in 20 provinces are experiencing near-dzud conditions. There is no conclusive data according to the Institute of Hydrometeorological and Environmental Studies of Mongolia to indicate that dzud is directly related to El Niño, however FAO has included Mongolia in the list of high-priority countries for early action related to El Niño.

INDONESIA

Six to eight weeks delay in seasonal rains

Overall, the country experienced drier than normal conditions and a delay in seasonal rains by six to eight weeks, impacting the 2015/16 main planting season and, potential harvesting of main agriculture products. FAO reported that only 30 per cent of the average number of crops have been planted on time. While it is still unclear which provinces and districts are most impacted, indications of increased stress on vulnerable groups in East Nusa Tenggara and Papua provinces are apparent and received attention from the Government in the form of additional rice stocks; drinking water supply; and agriculture support, including cash payments to affected farmers.

THE PACIFIC

1/10 of the population of Fiji reliant on water deliveries

1/3 of the population of Vanuatu reliant on food deliveries

El Niño impacts of varying severity are being felt in the region. Current estimates suggest that 1.6 million people in 11 Pacific countries could be at risk from changed rainfall patterns caused by El Niño, particularly intensified drought conditions and heavy but short-lived rains caused by intensified cyclone activity. The latest modeling shows that Vanuatu, Tonga, Fiji, the southern Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and New Caledonia can expect below normal rain levels over the next three months.

Without sustained wet season rains over the months ahead, many countries may not have an opportunity to replenish their water supplies until the following wet season at the end of 2016 or the beginning of 2017. Governments have not yet declared an emergency and are managing to respond to the needs of their people within existing resources.

Vanuatu: Asia and the Pacific: Weekly Regional Humanitarian Snapshot (5 - 11 January 2016)

11 January 2016 - 11:16pm
Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Country: Indonesia, Mongolia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu

Vanuatu

Severe Tropical Cyclone Ula will start to weaken as it moves south from Vanuatu after spending the past 13 days impacting countries across the Pacific. The cyclone passed close to the southern islands of Vanuatu as a Category 4 system on 10 Jan bringing heavy rain, some localised flooding, crop damage and heavy seas. Assessments are underway but there are no reports of major damage and there have been no requests for international assistance.

Philippines

On 31 Dec, 186 families were displaced as a result of fighting between factions of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in North Cotabato province. On 7 Jan, more than 1,500 families were displaced as two warring clans clashed. The displaced families are hosted in a barangay hall and neighboring barangays respectively.

The Government has confirmed that 32 provinces recovered from drought during the last quarter of 2015.
Typhoon Melor brought heavy rain, particularly to Luzon, which is easing the effects from an El Niño-induced rainfall defecit. Nevertheless, there are 24 provinces still suffering from drought which began in October

Mongolia

The Government conducted winter assessments in all 21 provinces from 16 to 28 Dec and concluded that 50 districts in 16 provinces are experiencing dzud conditions with another 120 districts in 20 provinces experiencing near-dzud conditions. The Government has not declared an emergency and is responding to the needs with existing resources. The international community stands ready to support.

Papua New Guinea

Authorities report that El Niño peaked in December and will start to weaken in January. Some previously affected areas in the Highlands and Momase regions received intermittent rains. However land affected by drought often can not absorb heavy rainfall. To illustrate this point, heavy rain on 3 Jan affected over 1,000 people, of whom 100 were displaced in Jiwaka province. The floods washed away crops, raising fears that an easing of El Niño and subsequent rain may further affect agriculture and food security.

Solomon Islands

A rotavirus outbreak in the Solomon Islands has killed 4 children and infected more than 2,000 people across the country, the vast majority of them children. The outbreak began in Honiara before spreading to the provinces over the Christmas holidays. The Solomon Islands Ministry of Health and Medical Services, supported by partners, is implementing a nationwide response to the outbreak under the Diarrhoea Outbreak Response Action Plan. UNICEF and WHO have local and surge staff on the ground who are assisting with the response.

Indonesia

While most of Indonesia is experiencing below-average rain associated with El Niño, torrential rain inundated 270 houses in West Sumatra on 6 Jan. Heavy rain also caused a landslide causing damage to infrastructure and impeding road access. In West Kalimantan, 510 houses were flooded on 8-10 Jan when several rivers overflowed. Local authorities are providing emergency assistance to both events.

Philippines: The Journey of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front's First Ex-Combatants

10 January 2016 - 5:42pm
Source: Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies Country: Philippines

On June 16, 2015 a Ceremonial Turnover of Weapons and Decommissioning of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) combatants was held at the old Capitol Building in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao. On that day, 145 Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) combatants were registered and processed to formally commence their return to full civilian lives. In late July 2015, the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) was invited by the MILF to interview 10 of these men. This publication is the result of those conversations. It brings out the voices of these 10 men who had just, a few weeks earlier, put their arms to rest. What these men’s reflections show is that decommissioning is a tool for peace; that it is not an end in itself but a means to a different life.

Philippines: DisasterNet Philippines: Scoping Study Report

9 January 2016 - 10:47pm
Source: Harvard University Country: Philippines

Vincenzo Bollettino, PhD
Philip Dy, MPP
Tilly Alcayna, MPH
Patrick Vinck, PhD

I. Introduction

The Asia-Pacific region generally, and the Philippines in particular, are highly susceptible to natural disasters. Frequent exposure to typhoons and flooding, as well as volcanic activity and earthquakes necessitate high levels of disaster preparedness and a commitment to disaster risk reduction. The Philippines is home to over 100,000 million people, many of whom are impacted by natural disasters every year. In addition to disrupting peoples’ everyday lives, natural disasters destroy property, disrupt economic production, reduce national output, exacerbate disparities in wealth, and hinder livelihoods, especially amongst marginalized communities and those living in informal settlements. To illustrate, the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction by the United Nations Office of Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) estimates that the multi hazard average annual loss for the Philippines is $7.893 billion, which is equivalent to 69 per cent of social expenditure in the country.

The Philippines has developed robust laws and government capacity to respond to disasters. National government agencies, private sector consortia, research institutes and civil society organizations provide training and education for disaster responders, help build awareness of disaster risk reduction measures and improve the overall preparedness of Philippine society to natural disasters.

Despite very concrete advances in the science and practice of disaster risk reduction (DRR), and disaster preparedness, this scoping study revealed that there are opportunities to further improve disaster resilience. Changing weather patterns associated with global climate change have not only shifted weather patterns but have also created stronger typhoons. The unpredictability of storm paths, storm frequency and the increasing severity of storms limit the effectiveness of traditional disaster preparedness measures, and necessitate a review of existing practices and measures needed to adapt to a new climate.

Large numbers of informal settlements, coupled with the movement of people into areas highly vulnerable to flooding and other disasters, mean that large numbers of people are routinely impacted by disaster. While the Philippine national government has devoted significant resources to building disaster capacity, training government staff, and legislating comprehensive disaster management laws, there remain significant gaps in capacity to implement these laws, especially at the local government unit (LGU) level.

There is a range of gaps in disaster preparedness including uneven capacity at the local government and municipal levels, limited business continuity planning for small and medium enterprises, inconsistent levels of professional training of staff within various disaster management agencies, inadequate professional staffing levels at the local government level, insufficient dissemination and translation of scientific findings into policy and operational tools and underinsurance of industry and households.

To address some of these gaps, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative has undertaken a three-year project in the Philippines termed DisasterNet. This project seeks to improve community-based resilience to natural disasters by supporting local government units and communities through applied research, education, and tools relevant to effective disaster preparedness and management. The first phase of this project was a scoping study undertaken in the Philippines from September 8 – 24, 2015. A team of researchers from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative undertook the data collection for this study in Manila, Albay Province, and Iloilo City.

The purpose of the scoping study was to map government, community-based organizations, national and international non-governmental organizations, private sector initiatives, and research and academic institutions working on disaster preparedness and response.

The study further assessed disaster preparedness and response strategies and systems in Albay Province. Albay Province is the recipient of many awards in recognition of its high level of disaster preparedness and effective disaster management. One goal of the DisasterNet project is to capture effective disaster preparedness strategies and to provide educational tools that will enable the entire country to learn from the experiences of those areas that have devised successful preparedness measures.

The results of this scoping study will lay the foundation for a broader national or regional level survey that will identify the leading contributing factors that determine effective disaster preparedness measures and the antecedents of high measures of community-based disaster resilience. The survey will provide contextual data to understand disaster preparedness and resilience in the Philippines. The data will inform programs and policies to enhance preparedness and identify key (unprepared) vulnerable groups. HHI will further explore developing a disaster preparedness score that could be used to monitor household level preparedness over time.

The scoping study further identifies existing disaster management agencies, networks of leaders and agencies focused on preparedness activities (especially at the community level), and key opportunities for further professionalizing and training officials responsible for disaster response.

Philippines: SoLeyte LGU delivers food items to Northern Samar devastated by Typhoon Nona

9 January 2016 - 12:21am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

MAASIN CITY, Southern Leyte January 8 (PIA) - The provincial government of Southern Leyte delivered food items to the victims of Typhoon Nona in Northern Samar in a week's time after the devastation.

According to Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer Luzviminda Rosete, the provincial government thru the initiatives of Provincial Governor Roger Mercado, ordered for the immediate dispatch of food items for the victims of Typhoon Nona that intensely hit the province of Northern Samar last year.

Rosete reported that three truckloads of food items namely, 100 boxes of corned beef, 100 boxes of beef loaf, 10 boxes of noodles, 38 boxes of sardines, 1,000 bottles of 500-ml mineral water and 300 sacks of rice were delivered to the mentioned badly hit province last December 22, 2015

She further said that the trucks drivers delivering the goods reported of their narrow escape from an ambush on their way to Northern Samar. Thirty minutes after they have passed the ambush site, another group bringing medical supplies were unfortunately ambushed. (esg/PIA8 SoLeyte)

Philippines: CAR to get P62 M El Nino mitigation fund

9 January 2016 - 12:15am
Source: Government of the Philippines Country: Philippines

BAGUIO CITY, Jan.9 (PIA) - - With the forecast of what the El Niño can bring to farmers and livestock growers, the Department of Agriculture assures that mitigation plan and funds are set in the regions.

DA Cordillera Regional Director Dr. Lorenzo Caranguian, in an interview over DZEQ Radyo ng Bayan, disclosed that with the impact of El Niño expected to be felt this first or second quarter of 2016, the agriculture department already made estimates and forecast of damage as well as mitigation plans.

Caranguian shared that DA’s estimate based from the projection of municipal and provincial agriculture offices nationwide, will affect around 23,640 hectares of rice, corn and high value crops planting areas which will result to production loss of around 31,354 metric tons of rice corn and high value crops.

For Cordillera, he shared that the region is far better than the other areas in the country as the tail end of the cold front and past typhoons have brought colder weather and rains in the region which is beneficial to the agriculture sector.

Nevertheless, Caranguian assured that P62 million worth of mitigation projects are approved for the Cordillera region and that they are now only waiting for the fund release.

The mitigation projects he said includes optimization of production in non-vulnerable areas through provision of certified seed for rice and hybrid seeds for corn, and provision of seedling trays, coco coir dust (sowing media), compost and plastic mulch for high value crops, as well water and crop pest management projects and other production support.

For livestock, mitigation projects to be implemented include provision of biologics such as multi-vitamins, vaccines, antibiotics and dewormer.

Caranguian also advises farmers and livestock workers to do their part and do also mitigation projects on their own if they are already feeling the effect of El Niño.

He urged farmers who have resources to start their own mitigation projects now and do not wait for the government intervention. (JDP/CCD with reports from DA – RAFIS)