By Afrhill Rances, in Manila
For communities affected by floods or other natural disasters, resilience doesn’t just mean rebuilding their homes, but building back better in order to be prepared for the next time. In the Philippines, the national Red Cross society is involved in a range of projects that demonstrate the need for a long-term response – to be ‘always there’ - to help tackle the underlying vulnerabilities of individuals and communities.
Six months after Tropical Storm Washi wreaked havoc in northern Mindanao, hundreds of families are still homeless, living in evacuation centres or with relatives and friends.
Washi killed 1,500 people when it struck in mid-December last year. The Red Cross and Red Crescent, the government and other organisations have helped many of the survivors with emergency relief and shelter but there is still an enormous amount to do, especially in Iligan City.
Some affected families are still struggling to get on the road to recovery. Editha Langit, 43, lost her husband and five children to floods that swept away her house in Cagayan de Oro City.
“I survived the flood, but getting my life back together seems a bigger struggle,” Editha says. She received psychosocial support from the Philippine Red Cross before leaving Cagayan de Oro City to stay with her mother in another province. “I needed to find some peace of mind,” she explains.
When Editha returned to Cagayan de Oro City, she was identified as one of the beneficiaries who would be provided with a new home by the Philippine Red Cross. She has received materials and was also assigned carpenters and masons to work on the new house.
In all, the Philippine Red Cross plans to assist about 4,000 families in Cagayan de Oro City, Iligan City and Bukidnon with shelter needs – such as repairs to damaged houses or building new homes – with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“We have already provided repair materials and tools to 2,000 affected families, thereby contributing to improving their living conditions,” says Gwendolyn Pang, Secretary General of Philippine Red Cross.
“Construction has begun on transitional shelters for families whose homes were destroyed and in a few weeks, hundreds of families that are currently living in unsafe situations will be rehoused.”
The Philippine Red Cross has also installed 22 community water points in parts of Iligan City. These vital facilities keep households ticking over while the residents await the restoration of the city’s water supply. The Red Cross also continues to distribute safe drinking water, using trucks and bladders, with more than seven million litres distributed to date.
“Our response is in line with the mantra ‘always there’ as we strive to address the humanitarian needs in a holistic manner,” says Ms Pang. “In addition to providing tips on maintenance of household latrines, we will provide cash grants to each family that will benefit from transitional shelter so that they can recoup lost assets, start up livelihood activities or meet other immediate needs.”
“Considering the numerous humanitarian challenges from response, relief, to recovery stage, we are proud of our Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City chapters whose staff and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that we attend to the needs of the families,” says Ms Pang.