story by: Riel Vincent Alfarero, DRR Palo-Tanauan Social Mobilization Officer and Marivic Eclarinal, DRR Palo-Tanauan Field Assistant
On November 8, 2013, Super‑typhoon Haiyan (locally named “Yolanda”)—one of the largest Category 5 typhoons ever recorded— made landfall in Leyte. Over 12 million people were affected, of which 4 million were displaced and over 6,000 killed.
Palo is one of the affected municipalities in Leyte. It comprises 33 barangays, seven of which are coastal areas. San Joaquin, Palo is one of the most affected barangays with the highest number of people killed, leaving deep scars and pains that can still be felt in the community even up to now.
All that had happened because of Typhoon Haiyan became an eye opener to the people and the local government to pay attention to disaster preparedness and risk reduction in their communities.
Before Typhoon Haiyan, Disaster Risk Reduction and Management was a field that was disregarded by communities due to their own reservations. Communities turned a blind eye to Disaster Risk Reduction even though the Philippines experienced an average of 20 typhoons per year.
After typhoon Haiyan the scenario has changed. Through the various international non-government organizations (INGOs), activities and projects promoting Community-Based Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (CBDRRM) were organized. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is one of the many INGOs that follows the grass root approach in capacitating and strengthening the barangay leaders before, during and after disaster.
“We don’t want retrieval, I will not let it happen again, we want zero casualty,” said barangay Chairman Gregorio Lantajo Jr. “We must embrace the community-based disaster risk reduction management or CBDRRM program of CRS because it is an opportunity for me and my constituents to be more prepared and to combat the effect of disaster risk in our community,” he added.
CRS, through its Planning for Resilience and Effective Preparedness (PREP) project which is funded by USAID and implemented in collaboration with the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP), initiated and conducted a series of training of trainers on CBDRRM in the barangay. From identification of hazards to making plans, all the barangay leaders are hands on.
With the project’s aim of making the whole community equipped with knowledge on disaster preparedness and risk reduction, the PREP team had organized DRR ambassadors and advocates to disseminate information and awareness campaigns to the households.
“The trainings helped us understand our risks, vulnerabilities and even our capacities in responding to disasters,” says one of the ambassadors.
Aside from the trainings, CRS also conducted participatory GIS mapping. CRS was able to revolutionize the process converting it into high-quality GIS maps which are readily available for future infrastructure and risk assessment planning.
To measure the program activities’ effectiveness, CRS conducted simulation drill exercises last April 24, 2016.
According to barangay Chairman Lantajo, he was overwhelmed with the participation of every family. “We didn’t totally anticipate their full effort and cooperation in the simulations. Their personal experience of typhoon Haiyan triggered the drive of households to genuinely offered their time and effort to make the drill a collective pursuit,” Chairman Lantajo said.
More than 800 families brought their GO bags where their important documents and emergency items are stored. Drill participants also marched to their designated pick-up points for pre-emptive evacuation and respective evacuation center.
During the simulations, different scenarios were enacted on the spot to test on how the BDRRMC members responded and coordinated with the Municipal’s Disaster Risk Reduction Office and other government agencies.
“We are very thankful to USAID, CRS and CDP because they initiated the simulation drill exercises. They are instruments to push and make us to become a resilient community. Our activity would not be possible without the coordination with the local government units of Palo, with the participation of MDRRMO Tanauan, the Department of Education, other government agencies, partner NGOs and all the members of the BDRRMC and even the families. With this, we realized that our path from vulnerability to resiliency lies on the participation of each individual. We must work hand in hand and prepare to face the future,” Chairman Lantajo said in his message after the simulation drill.
Photos by Radin Rubis, CRS MEAL officer/CRS.