Post-Yolanda review: Aid groups seek climate policies

In light of the post-Yolanda recovery efforts in the Philippines, international humanitarian organization Oxfam has released its review, saying that “when governments fail to  implement climate policies well, the cards are stacked against poor people.”

Yolanda heroes award. Leyte  Rep. Ferdinand
Martin Romualdez (right, top photo) hands a plaque
of appreciation to Cavite Rep. Lani Mercado-Revilla
for helping victims of  typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban
City and other parts of Leyte. The congresswoman
and her husband, Senator Ramon Revilla, were
among the first to  respond to the needs of Yolanda
victims. Looking on is Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong”
Marcos. Panel below shows OXFAM officers calling
on the government to address the survivors’ needs
and get the recovery efforts right. From left: Justic
Morgan, Country Director; Marie Madamba-Nunez,
Media Advocacy; and Alison Kent, Humanitarian
“In Asia, it is small food producers who often live in harm’s way. They have no savings or assets to tide them over after a disaster. It is they who will lose in the fight against climate change” said  Snehal Soneji, Oxfam Country Director in Bangladesh, in a report published on its website.

According to Oxfam, while the Philippine government has shown leadership in the transition from humanitarian response, the impact of recovery might be dampened if the capacity of local authorities are not further resourced.

“Disaster risk reduction measures, such as updated land use plans and fully staffed DRR offices, are not always functional at local levels. The government’s US$3.9 billion Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan (CRRP) presents the opportunity to include a meaningful plan for capacity building at local levels, boosting the skills of dedicated DRR staff and ensuring all municipalities - including the poorer ones - have the resources they need to effectively implement recovery and disaster management plans,” the report said.

“One year since Haiyan struck, despite the significant levels of humanitarian assistance delivered to the Philippines, families continue to struggle to find the resources to resume their livelihoods, with risks of deepening poverty in an already-poor region,” Oxfam added.

Oxfam’s new report entitled “Can’t Afford to Wait” exposes “that Asian governments are not prioritizing disaster risk reduction initiatives, despite projections that the region will suffer more from climate change in the future.”

“Asia is the most disaster-prone region of the world, according to the United Nations Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). In 2013, 78 percent of people killed by disasters lived in Asia even though only 60 percent of global disasters occurred here.

“Over the past 20 years, Asia has borne almost half the estimated global economic cost of disasters triggered by natural phenomena, amounting to almost $53 billion annually. Harvest losses alone related to flooding in Southeast Asia have an estimated annual value of $1 billion,” the report said.

In the same report, Oxfam said that “If no action is taken,  four countries—Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam—could suffer a loss equivalent to 6.7 percent of GDP annually by 2100, more than double the global average loss” basing on its finding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

If not adequately addressed, climate change could set back the region’s development and poverty eradication efforts, Oxfam said.

Oxfam’s assessment finds that the latter are often unable to give local communities the tools to prepare, react and recover from disasters.

“The governments of Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Vietnam and the Philippines need to overcome difficulties in managing coordination. The scale of the human cost of disasters in Asia is outstripping all attempts to even cope, let alone overcome, the threat that climate change represents.”

Meanwhile, transparency and people’s empowerment also become the buzz words in post-Yolanda communities as government and humanitarian organizations continue its efforts to bring back the normalcy in devastated areas.

“We believe in grassroots empowerment and we are pushing for a stronger bond between the communities and the government. In our community interventions we make it a point to inform the local government units first of our activities and keep them updated with the progress of our work,” said Mertz Certifico , Project Officer-Visayas Protection Project of the Community and Family Services International (CFSI).

“This way they can actively participate and support the advocacies that we are promoting especially in protection because it covers various themes, the most prevalent right now being access to services, safety and security, housing, land and property, and livelihood,” he added.

Certifico’s view came as he also noted that “capacity building” remains to be a challenge in the post-Yolanda recovery works.

“The people are interested to solve their issues, but they do not possess the knowledge and skills to take over the tasks of promoting community protection just yet, and this is one thing that we are aiming to address, ” he said in an earlier interview.

Grassroots empowerment is a key outcome of our efforts, and we want to see that in the communities we work with in our project, Certifico added.

CFSI, a Philippine-based NGO established in 1981, had already provided over 215,000 non-food items to over 64,402 families in the Visayas in response to Yolanda.

These non-food items consist of plastic sheets, tents, jerry cans, blankets, kitchen sets, and solar lanterns.

The group also provided plastic rolls to community infrastructures such as schools, and hygiene kits, mattresses to hospitals, and gum boots to recipients of special interest.

“We have already concluded our non-food items distribution, and now are concentrating on protection monitoring in Yolanda-affected areas across the Visayas. In this project we are gathering protection issues from communities, referring them to concerned actors, and keeping track of their progress until they achieve resolution,” Certifico informed on their current works.

Yet seeing also the need for a holistic recovery, Certifico pointed out that their initial relief phase must be coupled with people’s participation.

“A surfacing outcome of our efforts would be an increased participation of communities towards local policy development. Based on the community consultations, formed group discussions, and training workshops we have conducted, we have observed that the communities are more vocal and are keener in identifying protection issues, how they want these to be resolved, and what actions they want to take to address and resolve these concerns.”

“They are now more motivated to overcome the problems brought by their displacement, and are looking forward to bring back the sense of normalcy and not just solely rely on humanitarian aid actors compared before,” he said.

Carlos Padolina, Deputy Executive Director of the Citizen Disaster Response  Center (CDRC),  said that the government and other stakeholders involved on disaster mitigation and recovery program in Yolanda communities “should capitalize on the experience.”

Established in 1994, CDRC is the pioneer organization in the Philippines promoting community-based disaster management in connection to Republic Act 10121 or the Philippine Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Act of 2010.

Padolina said that after their group altogether with partner humanitarian groups  conducted damage assessment and  aid delivery immediately on November 12, 2013 four days after Yolanda, they also started teaching the affected communities to capacitate themselves in relation to disaster reduction.

“We have a one year plan on this because they still have the element of trauma, they don’t know what to do, ” Padolina said in an earlier interview with Manila Standard.

 According to Padolina, they are working on how the community would set up its own disaster committee, disaster reduction plan and how to conduct mapping to pinpoint a safe place in their area in times of disaster.

“Coordination is important…In the law, they should have their own people, office.”

 Yet Padolina noted that most of the disaster unit workers in the local level are into “multi-tasking.”

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