“While we remember Haiyan, we must not forget the bigger picture. Haiyan will occur again if we do not address the underlying vulnerabilities of the people.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Two years after supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) struck the country, experts emphasized the need for disaster risk reduction and building resiliency.
In a forum organized by the Consortium for People’s Development-Disaster Response (CPD-DR), Nov. 6, Zenaida Delica-Willison, an expert on disaster risk reduction said, “While we remember Haiyan, we must not forget the bigger picture. Haiyan will occur again if we do not address the underlying vulnerabilities of the people.”
Delica-Willison had worked with various international NGOs such as the United Nations Development Programme. She is the founder of the Center for Disaster Preparedness and served as the director of the training and education at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center.
Delica-Willison, now a board member of the CPD-DR, noted that after Haiyan, many international NGOs provided emergency response to the communities affected. “It was really amazing that all international NGOs were here but the question in my head is, ‘Why are they here? Are we not capable?’”
Delica-Willison said that while the government focused most of the activities in emergency response and managing disasters, the most important part is preventing hazards to become disasters. “Disasters are a matter of vulnerabilities,” Delica-Willison said.
Feng Min Kan, head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) – Asia Pacific, agreed.
Kan said the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 focuses on risk prevention.
Kan admitted it took years before the UN got it right. In 1994, the UN held the First World Conference on Natural Disasters in Yokohama. In 2005, the Second World Conference on Disaster Reduction in Kobe was held. The Third World Conference held this year came up with the Sendai Framework.
“From natural disasters to disaster reduction and now we got it right — disaster risk reduction,” Kan said. She said the change in terminologies is important as these reflect the understanding of concepts and concepts define actions.
Kan who used to be with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that while emergency response is important, disaster risk reduction is even more necessary.
“When I go to devastated areas, what I felt is that the help we give is really a drop in the ocean,” Kan said during the forum.
The goal of the Sendai Framework to prevent new and reduce existing disaster risk through the implementation of integrated and inclusive economic, structural, legal, social, health, cultural, educational, environmental, technological, political and institutional measures that prevent and reduce hazard exposure and vulnerability to disaster, increase preparedness for response and recovery, and thus strengthen resilience.
Addressing the members of the audience, most of whom are development workers, Kan said, “I believe the real change will come from you. We are pushing governments to provide the right policies, to create an enabling environment for you to do your work.”
Officers of CPD-DR network members shared how they are building resiliency at the grassroots level.
Jazmin Jerusalem, executive director of the Leyte Center for Development (LCDE), said the formation of Disaster Preparedness Committees (DPC) in barangays is the concrete expression of the Community-Based Disaster Response Management (CBDRM).
Jerusalem said that when typhoon Haiyan devastated many towns in the Visayas, there was zero casualty in sitio (subvillage) Inoolangoban, barangay Alangalang, General MacArthur, Eastern Samar.
Jerusalem said the LCDE provided trainings to the community. They came up with their own Counter Disaster Plan (CDP), identifying the hazards and planning for evacuation.
“The community chose two houses to serve as their evacuation center and they executed their plan when Haiyan came. And they were right because all the school buildings were destroyed,” Jerusalem said.
Another village in Cebu was also saved from Haiyan’s wrath.
Ma. Corazon Tan, a professor at the College of Social Work and Community Development in the University of the Philippines Diliman, said barangay San Francisco had zero casualty even as many other villages in Cebu were affected by Haiyan.
“They planted mangroves all over the island. These mangroves serve as their protective barrier,” Tan said during the same forum.
Delica-Willison said barangay San Francisco, Cebu shows it is possible for a small community to prevent disasters. “Empowering communities makes a difference,” she said. “The government is supposed to be supporting such empowering process.”