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STORIES FROM THE FIELD: A WOMAN’S INITIATIVE TO SUPPORT FELLOW EVACUEES

Malou Mendoza-Mamerto is an evacuee residing in the improvised evacuation center at Barangay Poblacion in Talisay, Batangas. She stepped up and volunteered to manage the 150 families staying in their camp. As a volunteer camp manager, Malou posted a call for help on social media to raise awareness on their current situation to potential donors. Because of her initiative, their camp received several donations and even temporary shelters built to house pregnant and lactating women, children, senior citizens, and differently-abled individuals. As the camp leader, Malou takes initiative in referring her fellow evacuees to nearby health centers and clinics in case they need medical assistance.

Malou used to live in Pulo, Talisay, Batangas with her husband and three kids prior to the eruption of the Taal Volcano. She worked as a vendor and often made a living out of the thriving tourism in the area. Now, they are living in an improvised evacuation center in Poblacion, Talisay, Batangas with no stable source of income. She mentions that their current situation in the camp is quite difficult especially for the women in terms of privacy in sanitation facilities, but she says that everyone eventually helps each other out.

As a mother, Malou also worries that she cannot give the same amount of time and attention she gives to her children prior their evacuation especially since the situation has urged Malou to have two of her children stay with their relatives for the mean time. “As much as I would like to look for a job so that we can have some income and I could provide my children’s needs, it’s hard,” she said, explaining that the entire camp’s needs have kept her preoccupied.

Malou’s family is one of the 2,697 families who received emergency humanitarian WASH assistance from Action Against Hunger through the funding of the Spanish Agency for International Development (AECID). Food packs and hygiene kits were also provided to 801 individuals through the support of Grab Philippines.

The Taal Volcano is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. On the afternoon of January 12, 2020, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) detected increasing activity of the Taal Volcano causing heavy ashfall, volcanic tremors and lightning, and lava fountains. This affected approximately 468,000 people. Our Mission Emergency Response Team (MERT) was immediately on the ground on January 15 to conduct an assessment in Batangas province to assess the immediate needs of evacuees.

OMPONG LEAVES TRAIL OF DEVASTATION

In the morning of September 15, Sinamar’s home in Barangay Camp 3 of Tuba, Benguet was caught in a landslide due to Typhoon Ompong. Sinamar, her husband Dennis, their 6-year-old son and other relatives managed to safely evacuate the area. Unfortunately, they also lost a family member as Dennis’ aunt was initially trapped under the eroded soil that buried her home. Four months after their ordeal, Sinamar and her family were left without a home and had to temporarily reside in the evacuation center located at their Barangay’s elementary school.    “We couldn’t pass through the main road because it was already eroded by then, so we climbed through the mountain despite the landslide. When we got to the hospital, we stayed there for a week because the children were traumatized,” recalled Sinamar.

Fifty-five-year-old Editha had a similar experience as she, her husband Philip, and their 3 youngest children had to leave their home after the typhoon left damages to their area. They, along with several other families, were no longer allowed to return to their home in Barangay Gumatdang, Itogon, Benguet after it was categorized as part of the danger zone. This left them no choice but to rent a house nearby at ₱3,000 per month. Before Ompong, Philip used to have a stable income by working in the mines. Since the mines needed to be closed for safety purposes, for the time being he creates soft reed brooms which Editha sells in the city. Editha also takes laundry and cleaning jobs as added income. “I hope there won’t be another typhoon like Ompong. Right now, I just wish we’ll be able to go back to our old home so that we won’t have to pay monthly rent,” said Editha.

Editha shares her story how they had to evacuate from their home after a landslide occurred in their neighborhood due to Ompong.

Typhoon Ompong, internationally referred to as Mangkhut, made landfall on September 15, 2018 as a category 4 typhoon with sustained wind speeds of over 200 km/h and gusts of up to over 300 km/h.  The large diameter of the typhoon, close to 900 km, affected Regions I, II, III, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), IV-A, IV-B and Metro Manila. Damages to infrastructure and agricultural resulted to an estimated 33.9 Billion Pesos – the 4th costliest typhoon in Philippine history.

The families of Sinamar and Editha including more than 2.14 Million individuals were affected by the typhoon. The landslides proved fatal for families in Benguet, with a total of 71 deaths and 50 injuries confirmed by the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC).

Action Against Hunger’s Mission Emergency Response Team were on the ground immediately after Typhoon Ompong made landfall and assessed the humanitarian needs of the affected communities in Benguet from September 15 to 20 and have since provided necessary interventions thereafter since provided necessary interventions. Sinamar and Editha’s families were some of the beneficiaries that were given hygiene kits and financial aid as part of Action Against Hunger’s water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and food security, & livelihood (FSL) projects funded by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), European Union – Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). ●

 

VALUING PWD’S CAPACITIES IN MANAGING RESILIENT LIVELIHOOD OPPORTUNITIES

Epitacio, 53 years old and a father of three, has been living with optimism despite his physical deformities. He is a polio survivor, a disease that attacks the nervous system leading to paralysis. Despite his condition, Epitacio was determined to live like a normal person and strived hard to provide food and other basic needs to his family. He is an elected councilor of Barangay Balete and the federation president of Bayabas Special Persons Organization (BASPO).

“My husband is a good provider because he accepts carpentry works, shoe repair and did hair cutting just to provide our needs. Even both of us are working, still it is difficult to catch up the needs of our children,” says Morninggrace, wife of Epitacio.

As voice of persons-with-disabilities, he started the lobbying for an income generating project for BASPO years ago. He talked with

government agencies and private organizations about the condition of his members and their hopes to have an extra source of income. But because of limited funds, his requests were denied. Action Against Hunger introduced the concept of resilient livelihood under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management – Climate Change Adaptation (DRRM-CCA) project funded by Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID). BASPO was chosen based on their identified needs, existing capacities, availability of managed projects and recommendations of the Local Chief Executive.

“It was our first time to be involved in discussion like this asking about our needs, views and opinions on our desired livelihood. We

appreciate consultations and sharing like these as we realized that we are part of the community also, not as hopeless people but capable individuals that can contribute in any community undertakings,” explains Rene Dumanhog, treasurer of BASPO. After exploring various livelihood options suitable for persons-with-disabilities, a community-based mushroom production was chosen and formally started last April 19, 2018. As pilot, 30 members and immediate family members of BASPO were trained on tissue culture, spawn making, substrate making, bagging, monitoring and harvesting.

To date, an aggregate volume of 13 kilos have been harvested out of the 390 fruiting bags and gained about Php 2,600.00. Members

including Epitacio are appreciative of their efforts because they are beginning to savour the fruits of their labor. Initial profit was used for motorcycle maintenance that has been mobilized for rice straw gathering and other operational expenses like replenishment of fruiting bags.

To ensure resiliency during emergencies, a Community-Managed Savings and Credit Association (CoMSCA) was adopted to encourage the culture of savings among members. Part of the savings mechanism is to establish a social fund that will be pulled out in times of need aside from the individual savings. Epitacio further says that “I am hopeful that this livelihood project will help us augment our income to and to increase our participation as vulnerable group in disaster risk reduction activities of the municipality.”

Action Against Hunger is working closely with the Municipal Mayor’s Office, Municipal Agriculture Office and Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) to expand the production facility particularly the construction of laboratory, incubation and sterilization areas. Trainings on financial management, product development and roll-out of savings mechanism are also pipelined to be implemented by month of May 2018 aside from marketing and product development activities. ●

A MOTHER’S MILK

On May 23, 2017, conflict broke out in Marawi City between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. This led to a 5-month siege that destroyed most of the city’s central commercial district and forced 350,000 people to evacuate their homes. 5% of the evacuees stayed in evacuation centers while 95% choose to stay with relatives and friends in nearby communities.

The host communities where the evacuees stayed were caught unprepared with the massive influx of people. Food, health, water, sanitation and other basic services for the displaced population were severely compromised. Action Against Hunger personnel were on the ground two days after the conflict started to assess the situation and determine the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population. Emergency Response projects in Food & Nutrition, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods, and Shelter started on June 1, 2017 and continues to this day.

These are the voices of the people who endured the Siege of Marawi through resilience and determination.

 

Idalia Beruar, 33, nursed her 2-month old daughter Queenie while her husband Ibrahim fed their two boys in one of the makeshift living quarters at the gymnasium-turned-evacuation center in Barangay Sta. Elena, Iligan City. After all they had been through, she was glad that all four of them were alive and well.

She was four months pregnant when they fled the armed conflict from Marawi City. They took the route which passed through the forest because gunshots were heard from the highways. The road was rough with rocks and slippery with mud. It took them hours to trek it with one child on her husband’s back and the other one on his arms. The heat and the tedious hike soon made them thirsty. Having brought no water with them, they resorted to drinking from any water source they could find along the path.

It was when they were walking through the municipality of Tagoloan when their 2-year old son Delmar got sick. “He was so pale and he kept on throwing up and had loose bowels. We stopped a car and asked the owner to take us to a hospital because I feared that our son might not last the journey,” she said.

At the Iligan City hospital, the doctor who attended to Delmar saved him from severe dehydration. He was discharged a few days later and joined his family at the evacuation center where they found a space to live in. The experience made Idalia careful on what her children ate and drank.

Fortunately, their first month in the evacuation center fell on the celebration of the holy Ramadan. Cooked food and purified drinking water were donated by their fellow Muslims who were not displaced by the armed conflict.

After that month, they relied mainly on the relief goods from government agencies and other organizations responding to the crisis. However, the food donations were mostly canned goods and instant noodles. Idalia was concerned that, with her being pregnant and her children still less than five years old, they were not getting the right nutrition they needed.

“I suffered from urinary tract infection. Maybe it was because of too much salt intake from the canned goods. My children also got thinner as the days went by,” she shared.

Starting September 2017, Action Against Hunger, with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), brought food aid kits for pregnant women, lactating mothers and families with children aged less than five years old. Idalia remembered the sack of good quality rice, mung beans, dried fish, fruits and vegetables included among the many items in the food aid kit they received.

“I cooked the mung beans with the dried fish and moringa leaves. My children ate it well with the delicious rice they gave us,” she shared.

She and other pregnant women and lactating mothers were also encouraged by Action Against Hunger personnel to attend a seminar on breastfeeding and infant and children care practices funded by the Spanish Cooperation for International Development (AECID). Idalia pointed out that she had always breastfed her children because they did not like the formula she prepared for them. But in the seminar, she learned that breastmilk is still the most nutritious food for the baby. She and her co-participants were also taught to massage their breasts to produce more milk when the baby is suckling from them.

“I was amazed also that the mothers who trained us brought their babies to the seminar, breastfed them, bathe them and changed their diapers for all of us to see,” Idalia said.

When she delivered her baby Princess on November 2, 2017, Idalia applied what she learned in the seminar and breastfed her baby. She also made it a habit to hydrate with water and vegetable soup. She also maintained taking ferrous sulfate and Vitamin A to keep herself strong and healthy. Today, at two months, Princess weighs six kilos and is always at her mother’s side.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority were conducting skills training for livelihood at the evacuation center Idalia’s family was situated.  Even though she was taking care of two boys and a newborn, Idalia grabbed the opportunity to sign-up for these courses for livelihood opportunities while they were indefinitely staying at the evacuation center.  Having seen the mothers who trained them during the child-care seminar bringing their babies while working, she brought Princess along with her when she attended the training classes.

“At first, it was difficult because she’s already heavy. But I wanted her to nurse her any time she needed to.” ●