Philippines

New Approach to Emergency Response Fails Women and Girls

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In November 2013, a massive typhoon struck the Philippines, killing thousands and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes. The response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is the largest to a sudden-onset natural disaster since the 2010 Haiti earthquake and Pakistan floods. Typhoon Haiyan is also the first large-scale natural disaster to strike since the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Transformative Agenda (TA) was adopted, and the first Level 3 (L3) emergency declaration in such a context.

Unfortunately, the TA’s debut demonstrated myriad problems. The TA was created to make humanitarian responses more effective and accountable. In the Philippines, however, the TA’s tools became onerous and unhelpful, rather than leading to better results. Implementing the TA became an end in itself, compromising humanitarians’ ability to provide lifesaving services in a timely manner. One area where this failure was particularly pronounced was gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response, which provides a clear case study of the TA protocols’ shortcomings.

Learning from these weaknesses, an urgent review and revision of the TA processes is required to ensure that when L3 crises strike, humanitarian efforts will be accountable to the affected population and, in particular, to women and girls, who require special protections from the onset of an emergency.