Support for unforgotten storm victims

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IT’S been several months since typhoon Pablo (Bopha) hit the province of Davao Oriental in eastern Mindanao, and while the storm and its aftermath have more or less disappeared from the media radar affected families in the municipalities of Baganga, Cateel and Boston are still in desperate need of assistance.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO) Manila Office, as a result of the typhoon over a million workers lost their sources of income. Many of them are unskilled laborers, farmers or unpaid family workers who are vulnerable owing to their level of skills, low earnings and limited access to social security such as health insurance, calamity loans and other forms of social protection.

To help these typhoon-affected workers and their families, the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) signed a P37.8 million (A$900,000) grant agreement with the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Country Office for the Philippines. The partnership will help create jobs, improve earning opportunities, and promote sustainable agricultural livelihoods using local resources in the municipalities of Boston and Cateel.

“Responding to natural disasters is a priority of Australia’s aid program in the Philippines. Australia is committed to helping Filipino families affected by this disaster to get back on their feet, and through this project we will help them to do so,” Australian Ambassador Bill Tweddell said.


The project will assist over 1,000 families to have immediate income through emergency employment, and help them transition to longer-term and more sustainable jobs through further reconstruction work in the affected areas. The project will also take into account environmental protection and conservation to help prevent another ‘Pablo’ in the future.

AusAID and the ILO will work with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) for this project, together with the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Agrarian Reform, as well as local community groups in the Philippines.

The project extends additional support to ‘Pablo’ victims following AusAID’s earlier grant of P12.6 million (A$300,000) to help provide livelihood recovery initiatives in Baganga.

“This project comes at the right moment when on-going humanitarian aid is gradually transferred towards medium-term interventions that focuses on sustaining livelihoods. Workers who lost their income after the typhoon will have the chance to learn and to develop new skills, while earning within a decent and safe working environment”, says Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.

AusAID also partnered with ILO to provide community-based emergency employment and reconstruction support to areas in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities that were badly hit by Tropical Storm Sendong (Washi) in 2011.

With Australian Government support, the project has employed 1,600 workers and reached out to over 6,400 typhoon-affected families. Workers were trained and mentored by engineers on construction. They were given starter kits such as tools, hammers and saws with their own safety gears.

These workers have now organized themselves into an association that enables them to enter into contracts to rebuilding activities, including slope and riverbank protection and prevention of environmental threats. The association ensures that workers get fair wage, under decent and safe working conditions.

The project has also developed a database of affected families using computer systems applications to facilitate identification and prioritization of typhoon-affected victims. A study on livelihood impact jointly prepared by Mindanao State University and Iligan Institute of Technology guided the design of the livelihood recovery options and skills training programs in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan.

This support also contributed to standardizing approach on delivery of community-based emergency under the Inter-Agency Standing Committee cluster on livelihood.

rjottings@yahoo.com

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