Communicating with typhoon-affected communities
By Clara Lewis
Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Pablo, is the strongest of 16 typhoons to hit the Philippines in 2012. The tropical cyclone struck the east coast of Mindanao on December 4th. It is reported to have severely affected 5.5 million people: displaced more than 800,000; left at least 1,000 people dead with almost 900 still missing. Typhoon Washi hit less than a year ago killing at least 900 people. Typhoon Bopha is the most southerly typhoon ever recorded in the western Pacific, a troubling indicator of the unpredictable ways climate change is affecting the Philippines. Unlike other parts of the Philippines, there was little community preparedness or resilience to the storm.
Communities living on the coast between Lingig and Caraga, including Cateel, Boston and Baganga municipalities in Davao Oriental province, have been worst affected while areas inland in Compostela Valley province were affected more by heavy rain. Though access is improving as debris is cleared, damaged bridges and roads remain a serious obstacle for the responders seeking to access Cateel and Baganga, two of the most severely affected areas.
The government of the Philippines is leading the disaster response and accepted the offer of international assistance on December. 7th. There has been a UN consolidated appeal for US$65 million to provide immediate life-saving support to 481,000 of the most affected people.
Communication Efforts led by UNOCHA
UNOCHA is leading a communications with communities group in Davao within the Protection Cluster which will function as a cross cluster technical support service. According to Imogen Wall, Coordinator of Communications with Affected Communities at UNOCHA: “We will be working closely with the government in all of this – key partners will be the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD, OCHA’s counterparts) and the Mayor’s office. DSWD have already established an information desk in their operations center in Davao City, including a hotline for survivors.”
She also reported that local telecoms companies Glob and Smart have been very active in providing free calling and charging facilities and that the Vodafone Instant Network has been deployed with INGO Telecoms Sans Frontieres (TSF) and Smart as part of the response. Local media do not seem to have been affected but to date there has been no assessment of their needs.
Key priority areas for communication include:
Connectivity and the ability of survivors to talk to each other and their families (including relatives overseas). Early warning and risk awareness: the hillsides in Compostela valley remain ongoing hazards. Access to information about services. Basic information about hygiene and disease prevention, especially related to water purification and home treatment of illnesses such as acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).
Two communications projects have been included in the funding appeal: a project by CDAC Network member International Organisation for Migration (IOM), which is based on the Haiti model and their project in response to Typhoon Washi/Sendong in 2011, and a project by Filipino INGO Community and Family Services International (CFSI), based in the Philippines.
Other CDAC Network members have taken steps to establish communications efforts. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Socities (IFRC) is deploying a Beneficiary Communications and Accountability delegate and has written communications into its appeal. Merlin and Save the Children also included beneficiary communications in their appeals. UNICEF also has strong communications for development expertise and will be participating.