Philippines Prepares for Storms

News and Press Release
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Disaster preparedness is an important part of ACT Alliance members’ response in the Philippines after supertyphoon Haiyan.

It is only a matter of time when the next powerful typhoon or some other natural catastrophe hits this extremely disaster-prone country. However, next time does not have to be deadly, as a lot can be done to mitigate the impact of a disaster.

That is the message of ACT Alliance members when they conduct Disaster Risk Reduction Trainings in the communities they are working with.

“If the community is prepared, it can cope with the impact of a disaster”, says Education Officer Edward Santos from ACT member the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

The training participants in Odoc, a fisher village badly damaged by Haiyan, listen attentively. They are poor farmers, fishers, housewives, youngsters and elderly. They have all been battered by storms.

“I decided to attend Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction training, because I want to know how to protect my family during a storm”, says Erlinda Torbeles, 48.

Philippines has usually 20 typhoons every year, with five of them destructive. The effects of climate change come in the form of more intense and erratic storms, sea level rise and increasing heat. In addition, the Philippines is situated in the Pacific Ring of Fire, where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur.

About a third of the population lives below the poverty line. The poor are hit hardest by calamities, as they have very limited means to protect themselves.

But something can always be done. In fact, the knowledge of what to do is there already – not with the experts or humanitarian workers, but with the local people. Their quiet knowledge of their own area is taken up and discussed together in the trainings.

The participants identify and assess the risks, vulnerabilities and capacities of their own village. Together they brainstorm the preferred activities what the village can do to reduce risks, what NCCP can do to assist, and what remains the responsibility of the local government.

The objective of the trainings is that communities can develop comprehensive preparedness plans (counter disaster plan). Another goal is to create a change of mindset toward self-relience and responsible ownership of the survival of the community.

Disaster Risk Reduction training means increasing people’s capacity to cope or withstand impacts of disasters and address the causes of people’s vulnerability.

“I really learned a lot. As we have no evacuation center in the village, we need to think in advance where to find shelter during a powerful storm. It’s very important that the community works together in this. We need to think, how to riprap the river which always floods after strong rains. Some unsafe bridges also need to be replaced”, Torbeles says.

After compiling the disaster preparedness plan, the next step in Odoc will be to make a proposition to NCCP for assistance for the riprapping work. As the bridge repair and building a storm wall at the sea front are the responsibility of the municipal government, NCCP can help the community with advocacy efforts towards the municipal government.

Beside the Disaster Risk Reduction Trainings, ACT members continue shelter and livelihood support in the typhoon Haiyan affected areas during the Haiyan Follow-on Appeal period 2015-2016.