Fear and prepare for the unknown

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Before Super Typhoon Yolanda brought unspeakable destruction and carnage to the Visayas region, the term “storm surge” was not yet part of the Filipino lexicon in relation to disaster preparedness. Despite the early warnings and anticipation that it could be the strongest typhoon to hit Philippine shores to date, nobody expected that the damage would be this severe. Nobody knew that it would bring so much pain and anguish to the country, which resonates to the rest of the world.

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By now, majority of Filipinos probably know how destructive storm surges can be in the aftermath of the super typhoon, just as earthquakes, lahar flows, floods, landslides and tsunamis now get our full attention. By now, hopefully, whenever there is a report of a looming typhoon and the accompanying storm surge, everybody will be fully prepared and relocate early if need be.

Preparation entails not only the willingness to do drastic measures such as relocating, but also providing oneself with financial security such as insurance. Unfortunately, the concept of insurance is rarely regarded as a necessity in the rural sector. Given how hard it is for them to procure basic commodities, insurance is usually far below the totem pole of priorities for poor people. But if there is one thing that these disasters have taught as painfully, it is that one can never be too careful or too prepared, especially in the face of disaster.

For the poor, a variation of insurance called microinsurance is just what the doctor ordered. It is a mechanism to protect low- income earners against risks, in exchange for payments tailored to their needs, income and level of risk.

At the community level, the technical research arm of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines, the Rural Bankers Research and Development Foundation Inc. (RBRDFI), is working hard in educating both the clients and rural banks alike about microinsurance.

The trainings being conducted by the RBRDFI are designed to benefit rural banks that want to improve the ways they market and sell microinsurance. They focus on how rural banks can help people regard microinsurance as an effective safety net during times of emergencies. Viable strategies are also discussed on how to market microinsurance, and to better educate clients about the benefits of microinsurance.

RBRFI has also developed an extensive Microinsurance Development Toolkit, otherwise known as Ladders, that contains resources to help member-rural banks in developing and improving their microinsurance program from the “learning microinsurance” to further “strengthening” their business. It also includes the Microinsurance Literacy Toolkit, which is a set of customizable materials that are available in English and Filipino that member-rural banks can use to maximize their potential for success in providing microinsurance value to their clients.

Best industry practices around the globe are also shared during these seminars, which include the use of technologies to expand access to microinsurance.

Microinsurance allows policyholders to recover and rebuild after a crisis, such as the Yolanda devastation. No, microinsurance will not bring back the thousands of lives lost. It will not restore billions of pesos worth of properties that were obliterated. It will not relieve the pain away in one fell swoop. But microinsurance will at least provide some financial relief for those who direly need it. More importantly, it will instill a mindset among the poor regarding the age-old adage that prevention is better than cure.

In the grand scheme of things amid this desolation, these may just be considered little things, inconsequential even. But at this point, this country needs all the help it can get, big or small.

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