Restoring Cleanliness and Hope: How hygiene supplies go a long way in times of emergencies

Leizel, 42, used to live a quiet and humble life in Barangay Mainit Nabunturan, Davao de Oro, with her husband and children. Their small store and her husband’s income were enough to meet their daily needs. However, their simple life took a complete turn almost overnight when continuous heavy rains caused severe flooding in their community, damaging their home and belongings.

While out of town in Cagayan de Oro City, Leizel received the heartbreaking news of their home’s destruction. Upon returning, she and her family found their possessions destroyed and their home unlivable. They were subsequently relocated to an evacuation center, where they had to adapt to life with limited access to basic needs.

Life at the evacuation center was particularly challenging for Leizel and her family. Accessing water required hours of waiting, and maintaining hygiene was difficult due to the lack of necessary supplies. They often had to line up for food, eating only once or twice a day depending on the availability of supplies.

Witnessing these struggles, Action Against Hunger provided hygiene kits through the ACCESS project funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Operations (ECHO) immediately after their displacement. These kits included essential items such as bath soap, laundry soap, shampoo, a plastic pail, a plastic dipper, a nail cutter, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and bath towels. On an average day, these items are often taken for granted. But, in times of crisis, they were instrumental in helping Leizel’s family maintain good hygiene during this difficult time.

I am immensely grateful to Action Against Hunger and ECHO for their support and commitment to helping people in need during emergencies. The hygiene kit has made a significant difference in our lives.

“The hygiene kit was a lifeline for us, as we were struggling to maintain our hygiene while being displaced from our homes due to an emergency,” said Leizel.

In photo: Action Against Hunger Field Officer shows to the beneficiaries of Barangay Mainit the contents of the hygiene kit.

Leizel expressed her deep gratitude for the support. “Dako kaayo akong pasalamat sa Action Against Hunger ug sa ECHO sa ilang suporta ug pagsalig sa pagtabang sa mga nagkinahanglan panahon sa emergency. Dako kaayo ang natabang sa hygiene kit sa amoa. (I am immensely grateful to Action Against Hunger and ECHO for their support and commitment to helping people in need during emergencies. The hygiene kit has made a significant difference in our lives.)”

Evacuees in Barangay Magsaysay in Nabunturan also received hygiene kits from Action Against Hunger through the ACCESS project.

Leizel stays strong for her family as they recover from the impacts of the flooding. She found solace in the kindness and support of volunteers and fellow evacuees, who became friends through their shared adversity. “Bisan pa adunay mga kalisod sa among pagpuyo sa evacuation center apan nahimo usab kini nga nagpamatood nga adunay kasingkasing sa pagkamaloloy-on. Nakita nako ang pagkamanggihatagon ug pagkahiusa sa mga volunteers ug uban pang evacuees. (Although residing in an evacuation center has presented difficulties, it has also served as evidence of humanity’s resilience and compassion. I have observed amazing acts of generosity and solidarity from volunteers and other evacuees, despite the uncertainty and discomfort),” she shares.

Beneficiaries from Barangay Bayabas attend a hygiene promotion session before receiving their hygiene kits.

ACCESS is funded by the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid and implemented by consortium members ACCORD Incorporated, Action Against Hunger, CARE Philippines, Community Organizers Multiversity, Humanity & Inclusion Philippines, Integrated Mindanaoans Association for Natives, Inc. (IMAN), Leading Individuals to Flourish and Thrive Inc. (LIFT), Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress, Inc. (MOSEP), Notre Dame of Jolo College, National Rural Women Coalition (PKKK), and Save the Children Philippines.


Written by Jenelyn Flores| Contributor: Edited by Joyce Sandajan

 

Empowering Women and Girls: Building Safe Referral Pathways in BARMM

Cotabato City, BARMM─ In celebration of Women’s Month, a diverse group of stakeholders gathered for a pivotal Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Stakeholders’ Forum organized by Action Against Hunger Philippines through the ACCESS Project funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO). The event, held on March 7, 2024, marked a significant step towards addressing the pressing issues surrounding the safety and well-being of vulnerable groups, notably women and girls in the region.

The forum brought together representatives from protection sectors from government agencies, civil society organizations, local non-governmental organizations, and communities from 11 barangays and four (4) municipalities all united in their commitment to combat GBV and ensure the establishment of safe referral pathways for survivors. The key participants were representatives from the Bangsamoro Women’s Commission, Municipal Gender and Development Office, Philippine National Police’s Municipal Women and Children Police Desks (PNP-WCPD), Ministry of Social Welfare and Development, Integrated Provincial Health Office of Maguindanao, barangay local government leaders, Protection Monitors, Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) Officers. Our local partners from the Integrated Mindanaoan’s Association for Natives, Inc. (IMAN) and the Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress, Inc. (MOSEP) were also present.

In a series of insightful discussions and presentations, participants built upon the ongoing efforts of various stakeholders, delving into the challenges and barriers people, especially women and vulnerable groups, face when accessing support services. They analyzed the existing gaps in referral pathways and worked collaboratively to develop a comprehensive framework of referrals that addresses the specific needs of GBV survivors. From healthcare, mental health and psychosocial support, legal assistance to social and economic support, the forum aimed to create an integrated system that leaves no one behind.

In photo: Action Against Hunger’s Gender and Protection Manager presenting Protection Principles in Humanitarian assistance.

Action Against Hunger’s Gender and Protection Manager, Charisse Jordan, presented the crucial Protection Principles in Humanitarian Assistance which plays a pivotal role in the protection of civilians in times of crises and emergencies. This set the stage for constructive dialogue and strategic planning among stakeholders, highlighting the importance of collective action in addressing GBV effectively.

Throughout the forum, the focus remained firm on the voices and needs of the community. Representatives from various municipalities and barangays shared insights into the specific challenges women face in their respective areas, shedding light on the urgent need for tailored solutions. These discussions underscored the importance of people’s informed and meaningful participation through listening to the stories of survivors, grassroots engagement and community empowerment in driving meaningful change.

In photo: Discussion with the constituents of GBV referral pathways, particularly in the Municipalities of Pagalungan, Datu Montawal, SGA Pikit and Parang, namely the Bangsamoro Women Commission, Municipal Gender and Development Focal, Philippines National Police Women and Children Police Department Officer, Ministry of Social Welfare and Development Officer and Integrated Provincial Health Officer of Maguindanao.

A particularly impactful contribution came from the Community Protection Monitors, trained by Action Against Hunger through the ACCESS Project. Two of them were 30-year-old Samira and 28-year-old Rahim who presented firsthand accounts of the challenges faced by women in their respective communities, emphasizing the importance of community-based protection initiatives and interagency collaboration. Protection Monitors are community volunteers and leaders who oversee the safety, dignity, and rights of individuals in their assigned area, reporting protection concerns, including GBV. They also identify at-risk individuals and connect them with available services and referral pathways.

The forum also addressed pressing issues such as unreported cases of violence against women and girls, barriers to accessing support services, and the alarming persistence of child, early, and forced marriages (CEFM).

Through candid discussions and collaborative problem-solving, stakeholders outlined a series of recommendations to prevent and mitigate protection risks which are often intensified during emergencies and disasters.

In photo: Forum participants presenting specific needs of victims-survivors of GBV and social service providers.

Among the proposed actions were programs for strengthening the functionality of referral pathways and local protection mechanisms during emergencies, awareness campaigns on the rights of women and the harmful effects of CEFM, among others. These initiatives are in line with Action Against Hunger’s Gender and Protection Policies and reflect a holistic approach to addressing GBV, along with other community protection concerns, encompassing prevention, mitigation, and response.

As the forum drew to a close, it became evident that true progress requires sustained commitment, coordination and collaboration from all stakeholders. From government agencies to grassroots organizations, each participant pledged to play their part in building safer, resilient, more inclusive communities for women, girls, boys, men and vulnerable groups in BARMM.

In the words of the Women and Children Protection Desk Head of the Municipality of Pagalungan, “The peace of the community starts with your leadership as the duty bearer of the community.” With this shared sense of responsibility and determination, we can pave the way toward a future where every woman and girl can live free from fear and violence.

*Disclaimer: The names of individuals mentioned in this article have been altered to protect their confidentiality and privacy.

 

The “Assisting the Most Vulnerable Communities and Schools Affected by Complex Emergencies Access Quality and Timely Humanitarian and Disaster Preparedness Services” (ACCESS) Project is funded by the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and implemented by Action Against Hunger, CARE Philippines, Humanity and Inclusion, Save the Children Philippines, together with our local partners─Mindanao Organization for Social and Economic Progress, Inc., Integrated Mindanaoan Association for Natives, Inc., ACCORD, Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc., Notre Dame of Jolo College Community Extension Services, and Community Organizers Multiversity.

 

For more information on our Gender and Protection approaches, click here.

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Creating Safe Spaces: protection for women, girls, and most vulnerable populations during emergencies

In the face of the Philippines’ complex humanitarian challenges, characterized by hazard-induced disasters and armed conflicts, Action Against Hunger has stepped forward to address the alarming rates of gender-based violence (GBV) and Protection risks, particularly affecting women and children. The organization recognizes that this dire situation not only jeopardizes the well-being of individuals but also weakens the societal fabric, diminishing the capacity to protect the most vulnerable.

The Philippines remains one of the countries most at risk of disasters based on the World Risk Index. Within this complex humanitarian scenario, women and children are disproportionately exposed to the perils of protection risks particularly GBV. Whilst GBV persists before the onset of disasters or conflicts, the risks are intensified in crises where protection structures and mechanisms are disrupted and weakened. According to the 2022 Philippine National Health Demographic Survey (NHDS), one in five women aged 15-49 experienced physical, sexual, or emotional violence from their husbands or intimate partners. This figure covers only those who reported and recognized what happened to them as GBV.

Instances of GBV are often underreported, leading to a prevailing misconception that such incidents are uncommon in BARMM. However, women engaged in consultations have revealed distressing experiences, including instances of sexual harassment, coerced marriages, and rape, including cases involving minors, occurring amidst displacement and within evacuation centers. Crises like the occurrence of conflicts or disasters deeply affect communities by disrupting lives, causing trauma, and limiting access to mental health services. These challenges increase vulnerability to GBV as displacement and limited access to basic services exacerbate mental health issues and may perpetuate cycles of violence. Marginalized groups bear the brunt, facing heightened risks. Many individuals express uncertainties regarding how to address or seek assistance for these issues, primarily due to fears of shame, stigma, victim-blaming, disbelief, and potential retaliation, exacerbating the already challenging landscape of mental health in these communities.

Jazmin*, a 39-year-old woman, is currently in a temporary unfinished house that serves as a temporary shelter along with three other displaced families. Jazmin expressed fear and worry over her personal security inside the house. Telling her story, Jazmin shared, “Pakagilek sa kangasilingan ta kagina dala pageletan na kabagiga. Yabu pageletan na kulambo para aden bu lending sa kaped a pamilya uman pedtulog magabi.” (there is only one room in the evacuation center and the only division we have is a mosquito net.)

“there is only one room in the evacuation center and the only division we have is a mosquito net.” – Jazmin, age 39

Another story from a displaced community is about 33-year-old Zainab* who is currently staying in an evacuation center in Maguindanao del Sur. Last December 2023, Zainab along with the people from her village was forced to leave their community indue to violent clashes involving non-state armed groups and the military. Throughout her life, Zainab has faced repeated displacement episodes, triggered by recurrent violent conflicts in her community. The persistent and violent nature of fleeing has taken a toll on her psychological and emotional well-being. For now, Zainab shares her anxiety due to the uncertainty of a safe and dignified return. “Ya nin pedtalon, kadakelan sa lekami na gagilekan pembalingan baguli sabap sa di pon gatawan kanu e kambalingan na military operation” (most of the evacuees are afraid to return to their community due to undetermined military operations). Presently, Zainab, who is in her seventh month of pregnancy, can stay in a secure environment where she can receive tailored humanitarian assistance to their needs.

“most of the evacuees are afraid to return to their community due to undetermined military operations.” – Zainab, age 33

Especially during emergencies, creating safe spaces is paramount. Action Against Hunger calls for stricter implementation of laws and adherence to guidelines advocating for the rights of vulnerable populations, especially those who are internally displaced people or at greater risk of GBV, as well as the establishment of safe spaces for women and children, pregnant lactating women, persons with disabilities, and children in humanitarian response. These spaces offer a safe space for women and vulnerable populations to access protection services and GBV referral pathways.

Action Against Hunger’s intervention in responding to GBV and VAW in the Philippines is a testament to the organization’s commitment to addressing the most pressing issues vulnerable communities face. By taking a gender-transformative approach, Action Against Hunger is not only mitigating the immediate impact of GBV but also working towards creating a safer and more resilient future for all. This exemplifies the organization’s dedication to realizing its vision for a world where hunger and violence are eradicated, and all individuals can live with dignity and safety.

*Disclaimer: The names of individuals mentioned in this article have been altered to protect their confidentiality and privacy.

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7.2 Magnitude Earthquake in Surigao

In response to the devastating 7.4 Magnitude earthquake in Surigao del Sur on December 2, 2023, Action Against Hunger acted swiftly, deploying on-ground teams within 24 hours to assess the situation. The Department of Social Welfare and Development reports that over 100,000 people have been displaced. Collaborating with the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid-ACCESS consortium partners, our Siargao field team is conducting rapid assessments and coordinating with local government units to gather crucial reports. In one barangay in the municipality of Barobo, Surigao del Sur, access to clean water poses another challenge. With no water refilling stations, residents must travel 8km to the next barangay to purchase drinking water.

The earthquake’s impact extends to the livelihoods of the community, where 95% are engaged in fishing activities, with the remaining 5% involved in part-time farming. Despite the existence of fisherfolks and farmers associations, the lack of registration with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) prevents them from accessing crucial assistance during calamities or disasters. The community emphasizes the need for organization and registration to enhance their resilience in the face of future challenges.