Disaster preparations underway with communities in Mindanao
Emergency preparedness is high on the list of priorities in the southern island of Mindanao which was hit by a devastating tropical storm in 2011 and the world’s deadliest typhoon less than 12 months later. Global climate change rendered the communities insufficiently prepared for the sheer scale of death and destruction brought about by the storms. The storms hit some of the poorest parts of the Philippines including the Caraga region where recovery is compounded by the challenges of poverty.
“If the community know what measures to take before a disaster not only will it save lives, but they will be better able to protect their livelihoods,” said Wouter De Cuyper OCHA's head of the office in Caraga. “When the typhoon struck in December 2012, it actually interrupted a series of outreach workshops in the municipality of Vereula which were designed to educate communities in preparedness measures.”
When Typhoon Bopha (known locally as Pablo) struck on 4 December, efforts turned to responding to the needs of the people. The typhoon affected 45,190 families in Caraga and response focused on food, shelter and livelihoods. Sibog Katawhan Alang sa Paglambo (Community Action Towards Development) (SIKAP), a local civil society organisation (CSO) quickly turned its focus from preparedness to response supporting local government units and clusters in the region through relief efforts and psychosocial interventions.
Time to prepare for the rainy season once again
More than six months after the typhoon, relief efforts have switched to the recovery phase and it is time once again to prepare people for what may come in the rainy season. OCHA is supporting the Office of Civil to build capacity through CSOs and Non Government Organisations (NGOs) with communities. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Act 2010 provides for family development sessions to ensure that knowledge is spread widely among those who may be affected by natural hazards.
“We recognised a gap with the lack of information in terms of community preparation,” said Christine Ampon SIKAP Executive Director. “We saw that people were not aware and prepared, and so were vulnerable due to the annuals floods experienced especially by the Veruela communities.”
The sessions organised by SIKAP in Veruela municipality have provided proactive disaster management activities with a significant and participatory role for local communities at barangay (village) level. “This has helped address the top-down approach in development and planning and disaster management, which failed to address local community needs,” continued De Cuyper “It ignored the all-important indigenous resources and capacities, which SIKAP will now build on.”
People are given opportunity to share their experiences
During the workshops participants are familiarised with disasters in the Philippine context and the roles and functions of the barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council in allocating budgets for disasters and how the funding is utilized. People are given an opportunity to speak about their experiences before, during and after Typhoon Bopha and to better understand disaster management.
Two facilitators were trained on family and community-based disaster preparedness and travelled around the region reaching out to families and communities with knowledge that could save their lives.
Up to 3,362 households from 13 barangays in the Caraga region were reached in some of the most affected municipalities in the province of Agusan del Sur.
One community member commented “It is a big challenge for us to be really prepared when a disaster happens. We need to take heed of the different opportunities to learn and apply the new knowledge given to us.”