‘The change of behavior in terms of disaster preparedness has saved a lot of lives and caused less destruction,’ says Plan International County Director Dennis O’Brien
MANILA, Philippines (Nov. 1, 2016) — From afar, you can just see a line of colorful umbrellas dotted along a vast rice field with mountains in the background. As you come closer, you can see more than 10 farmers, mostly women, barefoot and bending down as they plant rice while using the umbrellas to cover them from the heat of the sun.
They are women who have just braved a category 5 super typhoon.
In less than a week, farmers affected by Typhoon Lawin (international name Haima) are back on their feet – planting rice, plowing their fields, and drying the produce that they harvested days before the typhoon made landfall.
Disaster Risk Reduction and Manager of Isabela Edmund Guzman explained how the community has managed to recover so quickly, “We conducted intensive preparations for Typhoon Lawin. Two days before the typhoon, we did preemptive evacuation especially for those living along the coast facing the Pacific Ocean. We had pre-positioned goods in each municipality. Most of the farmers harvested their crops before the landfall as well.”
Super Typhoon Lawin was watched all over around the world with many comparing it to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) that killed thousands of people in November 2013. Reports claimed that the diameter and eye of Typhoon Haima was twice the size of Haiyan.
“We experienced heavy downpours and strong winds, stronger than Typhoon Juan (Megi) but we were not caught by surprise. We were able to prepare for Typhoon Lawin unlike when Typhoon Juan hit us six years ago,” Mayor Arnold Bautista of Tumauini, Isabela said.
“A day after Typhoon Lawin’s landfall, families have returned to their houses from the evacuation centers. They are already busy checking on their farms and houses and mending what was damaged,” Bautista added.
According to Guzman: “There was low casualties and devastation because of the preparation measures we did. We have the Sierra Madre mountain ranges close to us. The mountain ranges shielded us, minimizing the impact of Typhoon Lawin.”
To understand the extent of damage caused by the typhoon, child rights and humanitarian organization, Plan International, undertook rapid assessments in Cagayan and Isabela provinces. Life-saving shelter, and infant and hygiene kits were on standby, ready for distribution in case needed. The assessment was jointly conducted through the Philippine Network of NGO Network (PINGON) which Plan International is a part of.
Plan International commended the communities and the government for their disaster preparedness measures and for quickly mobilizing their resources to respond to the needs of those affected by the typhoon.
“The change of behavior in terms of disaster preparedness has saved a lot of lives and caused less destruction,” Plan International Country Director Dennis O’Brien.
He added: “The efforts of Cagayan and Isabela provinces in terms of preparedness and resiliency are good models to follow. We have to learn from them and adapt the good practices they followed during Typhoon Lawin and previous disasters.”
The Philippine government has stated their ability to respond to the immediate needs of people affected by Typhoon Haima. “Plan International stands with the Philippine government and is ready to provide support when necessary,” said O’Brien.
For almost 20 years, Plan International worked with the communities in Isabela and Cagayan, focusing on child’s rights, sustainable agriculture, school construction and disaster preparedness.
In 2010, Plan International responded to Typhoon Juan, one of the most disastrous typhoons to hit north Luzon, by providing life-saving kits to affected families. Following the disaster, the organization constructed typhoon resistant school buildings in partnership with the Department of Education, facilitated teacher training on disaster preparedness and built health centers.
International development and humanitarian organizations like Plan International play a key role in strengthening the capacity of children, young people and their families living in disaster prone communities in north, central and south Philippines.
While there is still a lot of work to do, organizations like Plan International continue to work to make every community in the Philippines disaster proof.