Building resilience to disaster in one of the world's "Most Disaster-Prone Countries"

News and Press Release
Originally published

IOM is deepening its response to relief and reconstruction after natural disasters in the Philippines, by conducting intensive workshops on emergency preparedness.

By teaching emergency response skills and counter-trafficking techniques in the disaster-prone province of Mindanao, the IOM Philippines mission hopes to build more resilience in local and regional government.

These efforts come as UN agencies and humanitarian organizations have appealed for more funding to help families affected by Typhoon Bopha, which swept through the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines last December. The typhoon left almost a million people homeless and caused widespread death and destruction.

The typhoon was the most deadly storm globally in 2012, and the most powerful to hit southern Mindanao in more than 100 years, a sign that global warming is affecting new latitudes of the country.

The Philippines, population 95 million, is officially the third most disaster-prone country in the world, after Vanuatu and Tonga. In practice, UN officials often consider it to be the most disaster prone country, given its large and vulnerable population and the frequency of natural disasters that affect it.

A four-day Camp Coordination and Camp Management workshop was organized and facilitated by IOM, from 24-27 January 2013 in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Among the issues covered by the workshop was human trafficking which is expected to increase for homeless and destitute victims of the disaster.

“Integrating a counter-trafficking component into camp management is important, because of the vulnerability of the displaced communities with no livelihood and no homes, and the limited options for alternative source of income,” said Ricardo Casco, IOM’s acting chief of Mission for The Philippines who participated in the workshop.

In attendance at the workshop were DSWD Officers from the most typhoon-prone regions of Mindanao, including Region 10 which was severely affected by Typhoon Sendong/Washi in 2011, and Regions 11 and CARAGA, areas recently hit by Typhoon Pablo/Bopha.

Dulce Almeda, DSWD Regional Officer said “we need workshops like this, particularly on site-planning. That way responders will know what facilities should be there and how many like latrines, bathing cubicles, water points, and cooking areas based on humanitarian standards.”

“If only there is pre-evacuation planning and pre-identification of evacuation sites, it would have been less problematic when managing displacement,” she said of the recent emergency.

The aim of the workshop in the regional capital Davao, was to reinforce preparedness and enhance the response. By sharing camp management knowledge and principles with the lead government responders to disasters, it is hoped that municipal, provincial and regional level actors will be better prepared for future disasters.

The workshop provided the venue to share knowledge and good practices between regions where typhoons are commonplace and new areas which never experienced natural disasters of such magnitude before. Typhoons Bopha and Sendong struck in the space of 12 months in parts of the Philippines which almost never experienced such extreme weather, adding to the death toll, trauma and misery of the population.

The participants in the workshop took part in camp visits and were encouraged to critique the camp management work. A workshop on site-planning took place using the site model presented inculcated in them the humanitarian standards in camps. This sparked great interest from the participants was seen as a good model to be rolled out in their respective regions for pre-displacement planning.

IOM Philippines also participated in a Shelter Workshop focusing on Disaster Risk Reduction measures to “build back better” focusing especially on the standard of materials to use to make houses more resistant to typhoons.

A revised humanitarian Bopha response plan is seeking US$76 million, a 17 per cent increase from the $65 million originally requested on 10 December at the onset of the disaster. As IOM and other organizations work with the Government to reach more people, the scale of the disaster has become more evident.

The violent storm affected more than 6.2 million people, claiming over a thousand lives and displacing at least 800,000 people. Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces bore the brunt of the destruction that left three coastal towns flattened.

The new plan should see the Government and aid organizations help close to a million people for the first six months of this year. Alongside emergency aid, agencies like IOM are supporting the Government in building stronger disaster preparedness and response plans through events like the four day CCCM training workshop and keeping a roster of trained CCCM practitioners. So far, aid efforts have reached tens of thousands of people with food assistance, shelter, water and hygiene kits. Many families have also participated in cash-for-work programs, which allow them to earn money while helping to rebuild their communities.

About 85.2% of the Philippine economy is prone to natural disasters, according to an Asian Development Bank (ADB) study. Over half the country's land area is economically at risk from multiple hazards such as floods, typhoon, and earthquakes according to ADB’s Response to Natural Disasters and Disaster Risks report of last year.

For more information please contact: Christie Bacal, IOM Philippines - Tel: +63 2230 1750, Email:

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