- The Philippines is ranked 105 of 182 on the Human Development Index.
- The country is highly susceptible to natural disasters, including seasonal typhoons and floods. It also regularly experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
- A lower-medium income country, the Philippines has a population growth rate of two percent, with one third of the population living below the poverty line. The urban and rural poor living in vulnerable areas are particularly at risk from the impact of natural hazards.
- In September and October 2009 a series of storms swept through parts of the Luzon island group, including the National Capital Region. Resulting floods and landslides affected millions of people, destroyed over 40,000 homes, forced hundreds of thousands into evacuation centres, and left hundreds dead (see Typhoon Ketsana insert).
- The ongoing conflict in Mindanao caused up to 430,000 IDPs, at its peak in August 2008. The prolonged duration of the displacement has resulted in increased trauma and loss of livelihood for the displaced population.
While the country has put in place strong systems for responding to natural disasters, the international humanitarian community has provided crucial assistance on occasions when the scale of the disasters has overwhelmed national mechanisms and available resources. This was the case in September 2009, when the HCT activated the cluster approach. And the ERC – with the endorsement of the IASC Principals – designated the RC as a HC in the wake of Tropical Storm Ketsana. At the request of the government, the HCT launched a Flash Appeal of $74 million (which increased to $133 million). With the support of an UNDAC team, the HCT worked closely with the government to assess and meet the needs of the affected population.
Meanwhile, the long-standing conflict in Mindanao, having escalated, resulted in the displacement of up to 430,000 persons, requiring additional coordination support to the humanitarian response. Over the last year, demands for humanitarian response to natural disasters and complex emergencies – as well as strengthened humanitarian coordination – have rapidly grown in the Philippines. Building on the efforts outlined above, OCHA will continue to work with the government and other relevant actors to consolidate contingency plans and improve partnerships in the area of disaster response and preparedness.
Accordingly OCHA is has established a Country Office, with a sub-office in Mindanao, to ensure support to the HC coordination of international assistance during current and future humanitarian emergencies. In 2010, OCHA will support the review and strengthening of the cluster approach in the Philippines. OCHA will help increase IM capacity and provide targeted support to the National Disaster Coordinating Council in its role as the key government body for preparedness, planning and emergency response. Working to ensure stronger relationships between national and international NGOs, other members of the response community and humanitarian partners, will also be an important priority.
Through its sub-office in Mindanao, OCHA will support humanitarian actors on the ground; strengthen local coordination; increase its outreach to conflict affected populations; and strengthen its advocacy on standards in assistance, humanitarian space, protection of civilians and respect for humanitarian principles. OCHA will work in close coordination with relevant partners, including UNDP/BCPR, DOCO, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. OCHA will ensure a synchronized phasing of assessment and assistance tools in the transition from relief to recovery, both in natural disaster situations and in the event of negotiation/implementation of a comprehensive peace agreement in Mindanao.