Lessons from Yolanda save communities hit by Ruby

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INTERNATIONAL aid agencies working in disaster areas in the Philippines said the application of the lessons learned from super typhoon Yolanda prepared Philippine communities for the impacts of the recent typhoon Ruby.

At the onset of typhoon Ruby, reports indicated of how battered communities applied the lessons learned from last year’s super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), said Surge Consortium.

“As typhoon Ruby pounded the country between the 6th and 10th December, first reports indicate lessons from Super Typhoon Yolanda were learned,” said the group composed of Oxfam, Christian Aid, Handicap International and Plan International in a statement released Sunday. “With Typhoon Ruby being part of the ‘new normal’ in the Philippines, it is good to see that lessons are resulting into changed practices.”

The group noted of how coastal towns of Daram, Gandara, Sta. Margarita and Tarangnan in Western Samar “proved ready.”

“At least two days before Ruby made landfall in Eastern Samar, residents voluntarily headed to evacuation centers, as designated in their contingency plans,” the group said.

Reuel Maga, Plan International’s emergency response team leader said all 2,905 families in Tarangan were unscathed when the storm passed.

Gathering of information was not also a problem with “data readily available,” saving time usually spent for rapid assessment.

“The municipal disaster risk reduction management officer (MDRRMO) distributed science-based information to the barangay captains, resulting in pro-active decision- making,” Maga also said.

Residents of affected communities in Surigao del Norte evacuated to designated areas even before the arrival of the typhoon.

“Every municipality has a women’s centre that residents use for livelihood trainings and social events. These are equipped with toilets, water supplies and electricity. They also have ramps for persons with disabilities, making them safe and accessible option in times of emergency,”  said Ricky Senoc of the People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN).

SURGE Consortium said several towns and villages in Western Samar and Surigao del Norte were among those trained in inclusive community-based disaster risk reduction (ICBDRR) under the Scale Up Build Up (SUBU) project. SUBU was led by many of the same organizations that are now part of the second phase of this initiative — SURGE.

The training employed participatory approaches that involved civil society, schools, churches and community members as well as scientific information, meetings assessed and mapped the vulnerabilities and capacities. Particular attention was given to the most vulnerable sectors of society children, persons with disabilities, elderly, women and those in remote places.

The group also noted of the contingency plans developed by communities in Western Samar and Surigao del Norte through the support of the SUBU project.

“These plans give clear operating procedures in times of emergency,” said SURGE Consortium.

However, the group said that there are still a lot of things to be done to ready Philippines communities for disasters. Evacuation centers must be equipped with adequate water and sanitation systems that can withstand typhoons.

Senoc said that there were still reports of overcrowded evacuation centers in Surigao del Norte.

SURGE Consortium said 71 percent of the villages across the country already have disaster risk reduction management committees, but only 33 percent have disaster risk reduction management plans and contingency plans.

“An estimated 48 percent of municipalities have contingency plans. All have appointed DRRM officers but most of them devote half of their time to non-DRR duties,” said the group.

The group also called on the government “further encourage community and LGU participation in emergencies and make investments that will strengthen local capacities to prepare for and respond to such disasters.”

“Such investments must address the needs of the most vulnerable members of the community and tackle the root causes of their vulnerabilities to effectively build community resilience,” it said.


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