On Friday 16th December, 2011, tropical storm Washi, locally known as Sendong, brought 10 hours of torrential rains that triggered disastrous flash flooding across Mindanao, in the south of the Philippines.
Tropical cyclones are not common in this area. Overnight, almost a thousand people were killed. According to the United Nations, more than 50,000 houses were damaged and livelihoods of some 1.1 million people were affected. One month on, 26,000 survivors remain in largely overcrowded evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Another 200,000 people are seeking refuge in makeshift shelters and with host families in their areas of origin.
Present in the Philippines for more than 20 years, Handicap International was able use established rapid response procedures that were activated following the disaster.
The storm forced Joshua (aged 10) to leave his home and to seek shelter in an evacuation center at a local school. Being disabled, Joshua struggled even more than the other refugees. To ensure his safety and alleviate his health concerns, Handicap International has replaced his big, old wheelchair with a new one. > Read Joshua's story.
"The problem is that those who are physically weak can hardly go to evacuation centers and access humanitarian aid," explains Catherine Vasseur, head of Handicap International's operations in the country. "It's paradoxical, but it is often those who need it the most who struggle to receive assistance."
Handicap International aims to target the most vulnerable people, including people with disabilities and those most susceptible due to isolation, age, gender, or social status. By participating in the international humanitarian response, Handicap International works to ensure that aid actually reaches those who need it most.
Handicap International has supplied aid on several occasions to victims of natural disasters in the Philippines, including to people affected by typhoons Ketsana, Parma and Santi in the province of Rizal in 2009, and also following Typhoon Megi in October 2010.