Philippines: How managing information can save lives
It has been more than six weeks since super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) roared through the Philippines, killing almost 6,000 people and affecting more than 14 million others. Coordinating a humanitarian response on this scale is no easy task. OCHA has been at the forefront since the very beginning of the disaster, setting up a series of coordination hubs, including one in Roxas City, on the northern tip of the province of Capiz.
In Roxas on the northern tip of the Island and Province of Capiz, representatives from the Government, the Military, UN agencies and NGOs from around the world are working to provide a coordinated and effective humanitarian response. The “grease” that keeps this machinery running smoothly is up-to-date and relevant information.
“It is critical for us to understand who is working in our province so that we can facilitate their actions as well as do our own planning for the delivery of relief supplies,” said Jose Villanueva the Provincial Administrator of Capiz Province. “For this we rely on OCHA to inform us on what is actually happening in Capiz.
Supporting Local Authorities
Another useful resource has been OCHA's Who does What Where (3W) database which is one of the main data sources the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has used to guide their planning. The AFP’s Krystle Villarantesays “We are here to facilitate the delivery of aid in Western Visayas. We rely on the information provided by OCHA to support the international humanitarian organizations who have come to help our people in the Philippines. We also appreciate their flexibility in providing the information in a way we can use it.”
The timeliness of OCHA’s information management was also appreciated by Victor Tanco, the Governor of Capiz Province, who used a tailor made OCHA poster to brief a high level delegation of visiting Secretaries from various Departments. “OCHA has assisted us to explain the complexities and accomplishments of the disaster response in our province,” he said.
Supporting local operations
One of the key roles for the OCHA team in Roxas is taking data that is available at the national level and making it useful and meaningful for actors at the local level. Partnering with the Child Protection Cluster, which is lead by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) the team re-analyzed municipal-level data to better understand the localities that needed to be prioritized and targeted.
“OCHAs assistance in identifying key data sources and in crunching the numbers allowed us to derive our priorities based on the data available and not on assumptions,” said Verity Rushton, the Child Protection Cluster Coordinator.
One of the most important actors in disaster management in the Philippines is the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). They are the national leads for the Camp Management, Shelter, Food, Non-Food Items, and Protection Clusters. OCHA has helped provide the information products needed for the Regional and Provincial Social Welfare and Development officers to do their job better.
Rebecca Geamala, the DSWD Regional focal point for Food says, “We rely on the data OCHA provides which is accurate and useful to present to the cluster members. This is why I am always going to OCHA to seek assistance.”
The go-to source for information
Judith Tanate, the DSWD Regional focal point for Camp Management highlighted OCHA’s convening power, not only for meetings and coordination, but for knowing who has what information. “We know we can always rely on OCHA to get us what we need. If they don’t have it, they know who in their network does.”
Fernando Arroyo, OCHA’s Head of Office in Roxas, highlights the need to have an integrated approach at information management.
“With so many different agencies active in Panay Island there is great potential for duplication and misallocation of resources,” he said.
“This is why coordination is essential. For OCHA to be effective we need to be the go-to source for information.”