DAVAO CITY: Several international aid groups working in disaster-stricken areas in the country over the weekend lauded the response of local communities to the onslaught of Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit), saying that the lessons learned from Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) helped the country prepare for the recent weather disturbance.
“As Typhoon Ruby pounded the country between the 6th and 10th December, first reports indicate lessons from Super Typhoon Yolanda were learned,” Scaling Up Resilience in Governance (SURGE) Consortium said in a statement released on Sunday.
SURGE Consortium is comprised of Oxfam, Christian Aid, Handicap International, and Plan International.
“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 added.
It noted that the coastal towns of Daram, Gandara, Sta. Margarita, and Tarangnan in Western Samar proved that they were ready for Typhoon Ruby.
“At least two days before Ruby made landfall in Eastern Samar, residents voluntarily headed to evacuation centers, as designated in their contingency plans,” SURGE Consortium said.
Meanwhile, Reuel Maga, Plan International’s emergency response team leader, said all 2,905 families in Tarangnan were all safe and accounted for after the storm passed.
Maga mentioned that information from the government was made readily available to communities, making it easier for local leaders to conduct rapid assessments of the possible impacts of the storm.
“The municipal disaster risk reduction management officer distributed science-based information to the barangay captains, resulting in pro-active decision-making,” Maga cited.
In addition, residents of affected communities in Surigao del Norte evacuated to designated areas before the arrival of Typhoon Ruby.
“Every municipality has a women’s center 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 options in times of emergency,” said Ricky Senoc of the People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network.
SURGE Consortium said officials of several towns and villages in Western Samar and Surigao del Norte were trained in inclusive, community-based disaster risk reduction under the Scale Up Build Up (SUBU) project.
The SUBU project was led by many of the same organizations that are now part of the second phase of the said initiative – the SURGE project.
The cited training employed participatory approaches that involved civil society, schools, the Church, and community members.
It underlined the importance of scientific information and the assessment and mapping of a community’s vulnerabilities and capabilities.
Moreover, the training stressed that disaster preparations should be responsive to the needs of vulnerable sectors such as children, persons with disabilities, the elderly, women, and residents of remote areas.
SURGE Consortium also cited that communities in Western Samar and Surigao del Norte were able to develop contingency plans in line with the SUBU project.
“These plans give clear operating procedures in times of emergency,” the group said.
However, it also said that more work needs to be done in order to fully prepare communities for disasters.
Evacuation centers, for one, must be equipped with adequate water and sanitation systems that can withstand typhoons, according to SURGE Consortium.
Senoc, meanwhile, said that several evacuation centers in Surigao del Norte were overcrowded.
SURGE Consortium also said that while 71 percent of villages across the country have already formed disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) committees, only 33 percent have come up with DRRM 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 (disaster risk reduction) duties,” said the group.
It also called on the government to “further encourage community and LGU (local government unit) 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,” SURGE Consortium said.