“Typhoon Yolanda tested our commitment.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – When supertyphoon Yolanda (international name: Haiyan) hit the country on Nov. 8, 2013, the office of the Leyte Center for Development (LCDE) in Palo, Leyte was totally destroyed.
The LCDE is a regional center dedicated to disaster response and risk reduction for the past 27 years. The LCDE provided assistance to victims of the 1991 Ormoc flashflood and the 2006 landslide in St. Bernard, Southern Leyte.
Yolanda was a totally different experience.
Speaking at a forum organized by the Consortium for People’s Development-Disaster Response (CPD-DR),Jazmin Jerusalem, LCDE executive director, said she had never imagined they would apply the Damage, Needs, Capacities Assessment (DNCA) tool on themselves.
All of the LCDE staff members were affected. Their houses were also damaged; their family members were also displaced.
“Typhoon Yolanda tested our commitment,” Jerusalem said.
Jerusalem said the first thing they did was to identify the physical resources left and most importantly, their human resources. “No one among the 17 of us took a leave,” she said.
Like many households in Eastern Visayas, the LCDE office had no water and electricity for three months.
Despite the deplorable condition and their limitations, the LCDE was able to serve 23,000 families from more than 100 barangays in ten municipalities of three provinces.
Jerusalem said they would not be able to do it without the help of people’s organizations, volunteers and donors.
“Some leaders of people’s organizations walked for eight hours to check on us,” Jerusalem said. “It was their turn to help us and they stayed on with us.”
Jerusalem said the LCDE’s long-time experience in disaster response work and its partnership with people’s organizations and local government units proved vital in effective disaster response after Yolanda.
Being part of a national network, the Citizens Disaster Response Network (CDRN) was also an advantage, Jerusalem said.
The CDRN is a network of 17 NGOs from all over the country . Members of CDRN based in Manila and Mindanao extended help to Yolanda-affected communities during emergency response, early recovery and even up to rehabilitation.
Foreign donors and volunteers also came to their rescue, Jerusalem said. She said foreigners stayed with them in their makeshift tents as all hotels were destroyed in Leyte.
In Panay island, help from people’s organizations and direct people’s actions were key factors in emergency response and recover, according to Karen Faith Villaprudente of Organic Farm Field Experimentation Research Station (OFFERS-Panay).
Villaprudente said three days before Yolanda came, the Disaster Preparedness Committees (DPC) in barangays were convened. Evacuation and other measures for emergency response were planned.
Villaprudente said ten days after Yolanda, people’s organizations delivered relief goods, conducted medical missions and repaired damaged houses.
Villaprudente said people’s organizations provided emergency relief for 60,000 families; housing repair for 1,000 households; livelihood assistance for 1,000 household, among other services.
On the contrary, it took local government units at least a month to get their act together, Villaprudente said.
Each relief pack from the Department of Social Welfare and Development consisted of two kilos of rotten rice, expired sardines and a few packs of noodles, according to Villaprudente.
“Government assistance was slow, inefficiently done and not enough,” Villaprudente said.
She added it took more than a year before the Emergency Shelter Assistance (ESA) was released. “If the victims did not act, none of the funds would have been released. Thousands signed the petition and joined protest actions.”