Safe water in a safe community

For Aslani Atha Casim and his family, getting clean water and safe access to hygiene facilities was a struggle in their community. The 27-year-old farmer lives with his wife and three kids in Barangay Baya, located in the Municipality of Ganassi, Lanao Del Sur.

Residents of Barangay Baya used to get their water from the nearby river which is half a kilometer away from the community. To get there, Aslani and his family would need to either hike or ride a horse so they could fetch water, do laundry, and take baths.

“It’s not easy because my wife and I have to carry heavy water containers going back home,” says Aslani. On rainy days, going to the river was difficult because the road would become slippery. This made Aslani worry about his family’s safety.

Through the ECHO-funded REACH Project, Action Against Hunger provided water, sanitation, & hygiene support to the community of Baya. This included rehabilitating the communal toilet that is separate for men and women. We also repaired existing tap stands to extend the water supply, so residents no longer need to travel far to access water from the river. Apart from this, the community also received hygiene promotion sessions that talked about personal hygiene, as well as maintaining the cleanliness of the communal toilets.

Solar lights were also installed to lighten the areas around the water and sanitation facilities and make the facilities safer to use in the evenings. Community members including the family of Aslani have participated in the hygiene promotion activities and learned about the good hygiene practices as well the prevention of water and sanitation related diseases. Health seeking and hygiene behavior were reinforced by these sessions since access to WASH facilities were made available in consideration of respect and dignity.

Aslani shares that the intervention has impacted their everyday lives now that they have WASH facilities that are socially inclusive.

He also highlighted that the new facilities make the women and children in their community feel safer. “I’m grateful that the toilet for men is separated from the women’s toilet. Children become more conscious of their hygiene, which is good because the facility is child friendly. “It has made people’s lives easier. We don’t have to ride a horse or walk under the sun. I don’t need to worry when my wife wants to wash the laundry because the [comfort room] is just a walking distance near our house,” Aslani said.

Since WASH facilities are available, more people have been coming to their barangay to get water. “This is a huge help for every Muslim in our barangay especially since Ramadhan is approaching and everyone would need water and [comfort room] for ablution,” Aslani added.

With support from European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the “Response to the Unmet Humanitarian Needs of the Most Vulnerable Conflict-Affected Populations in Mindanao” or REACH 3 Project is implemented by ACCORD Incorporated, Action Against Hunger Philippines, CARE Philippines, Community Organizers Multiversity, IDEALS, Inc., Nisa Ul-Haqq Fi Bangsamoro, United Youth of the Philippines-Women, and Oxfam Pilipinas.

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Women for WASH: Celebrating Women and Girls in Science

Let’s celebrate the International Day for Women and Girls in Science! We recognize and honor the achievements of women and girls in the field of science and their critical role in achieving and sustaining clean water and sanitation.

Miela De Gracia, an esteemed educator and former principal of the Sindangan Pilot Demonstration School in Sindangan, Zamboanga del Norte. Both Miela and her school were among the five awarded champions of the Department of Education’s Comprehensive Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Schools (WinS) Program last November 28 to 29, 2022.

To qualify as a WinS Champion, the school must sustain a three-star rating for three consecutive years. The rating will be based on the comprehensive criteria judged on hygiene, sanitation, water, deworming, and health education.

“It really takes shared leadership, shared governance, and shared responsibilities with the community to achieve something,”

With the continuous support of Action Against Hunger and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Philippines through the “National Roll-out of Philippine Approach to Sustainable Sanitation (PhATSS) and Integrated Program Modelling in Zamboanga del Norte” Project, Miela and her school are able to sustain ideal sanitation and hygiene standards.

Miela shares that this achievement was not due to her efforts alone, but rather it was the support of her community that made a difference. “It really takes shared leadership, shared governance, and shared responsibilities with the community to achieve something,” she adds.

Miela’s school, under her leadership, also led the Menstrual Health Management Campaign last September 29, 2022.

In photo: Miela receives a certificate of appreciation during the Menstrual Health Management Campaign last September 29, 2022. (Photo by Eden Somodio for Action Against Hunger)

The involvement of women and girls in STEM is not just important to have clean water and sanitation for all, as underscored by Sustainable Development Goal 6, but to achieve all 17 sustainable development goals.

By promoting the participation of women and girls in this field, we are ensuring that the perspectives and experiences of half of the world’s population are represented in developing solutions to water and sanitation issues.

The National Roll-out of Philippine Approach to Sustainable Sanitation (PHATSS) and Integrated Program Modelling in Zamboanga del Norte Project is funded by the UNICEF, and implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines, with the support of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and in coordination with the Provincial Government of Zamboanga del Norte. Read more

Staying healthy and safe in times of crisis

“I still remember how hard the wind and rain were that night. The children were crying out of fear.”

These were the words of 34-year-old Geraldine Quire-Quire as she recalls their night at the evacuation center when Typhoon Odette (internationally named Rai) made landfall in Siargao on the 16th of December 2021. As a mother, her family’s safety is her top priority.

Already pregnant with their third child, Geraldine had to take care of their two children and her disabled aunt by herself in the wake of Odette’s rampage. Geraldine’s husband was away in the city working as a watchman at the time.

The intensity of the typhoon was a horrific experience for the children, according to her. To make matters worse, they went home to find that the typhoon had partially damaged their house.

Months later, Geraldine finds some comfort in the life-saving support they received different organizations and government agencies. They are one of the families in Barangay Opong in Taganaan, Surigao del Norte who received water, sanitation, & hygiene materials from UNICEF Philippines through Action Against Hunger’s Super Typhoon Emergency WASH Response in Caraga. According to Geraldine, some of the items will prove to be useful when she gives birth.


Geraldine also participated in the hygiene promotion sessions of Action Against Hunger. After hearing reminders on COVID safety and how to practice proper hygiene and sanitation, she was eager to teach her children these hygiene habits.

In photo: Geraldine teaches her eldest daughter how to properly wash hands with soap and water based on what she learned from Action Against Hunger’s hygiene promotion sessions. (Photos by Abdul Alim Talusob for Action Against Hunger)

As of July 18, we have reached 81,957 people in Surigao del Norte with life-saving WASH support. Aside from giving access to safe water and sanitation services, our goal is to ensure that families like Geraldine’s adopt and sustain proper hygiene practices.

Our Super Typhoon Odette Emergency WASH Response in CARAGA is funded by the United Nations Central Emergency Fund (UN CERF), the Republic of Korea, and the Government of Japan through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Philippines

Written by Adam Lacson, edited by Joyce Sandajan Read more

PBA 2021: Converging efforts with local government and RHUs to strengthen health and nutrition initiatives in Mindanao

Limited access to quality health care has been one of the identified humanitarian gaps within remote areas even before the pandemic. This immediately took a turn for the worse when COVID-19 negatively impacted these health systems. Many primary healthcare services have become inaccessible due to the lockdown restrictions or overcapacity of patients. Conflict-affected communities─especially the poor, displaced, and those in other vulnerable conditions─are at greater risk more than ever.

This is why our Program-Based Approach (PBA) in Mindanao has been coordinating with rural health units to ensure that primary health services are available, sustainable, and easily accessed by vulnerable communities.

Since the second quarter of 2021, we have been sponsoring medical-dental missions of the local government with support funding from the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

Dental Services during the Health Mission at Lumbatan last August 23, 2021 (Photo by PBA Mindanao 2021 for Action Against Hunger)

A total of 1,202 people—collectively from Binidayan and Lumbatan of Lanao del Sur—participated in a series of activities from July 26 to September 2. Our nutrition screening activities were also integrated with the health mission to converge our health initiatives on the ground.

MUAC Screening during the Health Mission at Lumbatan on September 2, 2021 (Photo by PBA Mindanao 2021 for Action Against Hunger)

Following the nutrition screening, all individuals identified to have severe or moderate acute malnutrition were then referred to the RHUs to receive appropriate care and treatment. To supplement their nutritional needs, they will also receive financial assistance from our multi-purpose cash program.

Nutrition Awareness Session during the Health Mission in Binidayan on July 26, 2021(Photo by PBA Mindanao 2021 for Action Against Hunger)

Aside from these interventions, nutrition-awareness sessions were also held to refresh or heighten the participants’ knowledge of good health practices. In Binidayan, pregnant and lactating women (PLW) who are at nutritional risk also received hygiene kits and hygiene promotion sessions.

Hygiene Kit Distribution for PLWs at Binidayan during the Health Mission on July 26, 2021 (Photo by PBA Mindanao 2021 for Action Against Hunger)

Our efforts to stop and prevent hunger continues. We aim to fully protect, assist, and advocate for disadvantaged communities that are at greater risk to societal, environmental, and health crises.

The Program-Based Approach (PBA), otherwise referred to as ‘Multi-Sectoral Lifesaving Assistance to People Most Vulnerable to the COVID-19 Pandemic, Conflict, and Disasters ─ Mindanao Program 2021’ is funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines.

Written by Joyce Anne Sandajan Read more

Limited Access to Clean and Safe Water is One of the Many Underlying Causes of Malnutrition

Limited access to clean and safe water is one of the many underlying causes of malnutrition.

In order to address this, we truck water into affected areas and install storage tanks and reservoirs. Where water is scarce or unsafe, we protect natural springs, decontaminate wells, install and rehabilitate hygiene infrastructures and pipe water into hard-to-reach communities and health facilities.

Throughout our presence in the Philippines, we have been actively strengthening our water, sanitation & hygiene programs to support communities against preventable diseases.

𝗥𝗲𝗮𝗱 𝗺𝗼𝗿𝗲 𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗪𝗔𝗦𝗛 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗴𝗿𝗮𝗺𝘀 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗳𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝗰𝗮𝗻 𝗴𝗲𝘁 𝗶𝗻𝘃𝗼𝗹𝘃𝗲𝗱:

(Photos by EJ Villafranca for Action Against Hunger)

Our Teams Distribute Hygiene Kits and Build Latrines and Hand-Washing Stations to Prevent Outbreaks of Diseases During a Crisis

Prior to the pandemic, our teams distribute hygiene kits and build latrines and hand-washing stations in the communities we work with to prevent outbreaks of diseases during a crisis. In communities at risk, we construct water filters made from basic materials and teach healthy practices like hand-washing, cooking with clean utensils, and drawing water from protected sources.

Read more about our WASH projects and find out how you can support us:

Real Life Heroes – Abubakar Balabagan

As humanitarian workers, our field teams have time and time again shown great dedication at ground level in reaching even the most isolated communities. One great example would be Abubakar “Bhaks” Balabagan who has always given his best efforts despite the risks and challenges.

Get to know Bhaks and what makes him one of our Real-Life Heroes!

What motivates you to become a humanitarian worker?
My purpose, which is to help people in the community who are suffering during disasters, and saving lives as well.

Why are you making this sacrifice?
It makes me fulfilled. I am happy to help vulnerable people in the community through Action Against Hunger and be able to have a role in providing free and direct access to beneficiaries – because it is one of the organization’s principles.

Bhaks teaches participants how to use the hyposol solution during the hygiene promotion session in Baras, Catanduanes. (Photo by Joyce Anne Sandajan for Action Against Hunger)

What have been the challenges to your work because of the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic is very challenging because the risk of contracting and/or transmitting the virus can happen anytime and anywhere if not careful. Because of this, we have to limit gathering beneficiaries in small areas for activities like hygiene promotion sessions.

What motivates you to keep doing your work even with these challenges?
My motivation comes from the people I serve. When I became a humanitarian worker, I became more conscious of the people’s daily struggles and have a deeper understanding on how different their situations are. For instance, many of them are striving to survive the economic downturn during this pandemic.

What are you most proud of?
The thought that the work that I do, in some way or another, will have a ripple effect that will impact the lives of the people I serve.

Bhaks has been working with Action Against Hunger for more than 4 years. Now, he is currently part of our Typhoon Rolly (Goni) Emergency Response Team as one of the Project Assistants.

The Emergency Assistance to Typhoon Affected Communities in Catanduanes and Albay Province, Philippines is funded by by USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, and implemented by Action Against Hunger Philippines, and CARE Philippines. Read more

Trained to Train her Fellow Evacuees: Meet Soraya Camid, one of our #RealLifeHeroes

“So kapangunab sa lima na ipakalidas ko mga sakit (Proper handwashing helps a lot in preventing diseases.)”

This is Soraya Camid’s constant advice to her fellow evacuees. Soraya and her family were one of the many people who were displaced because of the Marawi Siege back in 2017. After being trained by Action Against Hunger on basic hygiene promotion, she now volunteers as a Community Hygiene Promoter (CHP) in Sugod, Madalum, Lanao del Sur.

Last October 15, Soraya, together with her fellow CHPs and our Iligan team, celebrated #GlobalHandwashingDay by raising awareness on the importance of handwashing in preventing disease transmission and saving lives. They conducted a hygiene promotion session in Madalum, wherein Soraya shares her gained knowledge on WASH with her community.

Despite the struggles she experienced, Soraya moves forward and works hard to influence her community positively, making her one of our Real-Life Heroes. (Photos by Lowelyn Sumayo for Action Against Hunger)

Written by Lowelyn Sumayo.


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.


Arakan, a first-class municipality in the province of North Cotabato and home to many indigenous people in Mindanao. Despite the diversity of its culture, Arakan is faced with daily struggles as poverty and impacts of natural disaster and conflict are day to day realities of the population. People struggle with limited income opportunities and scarce food production. More importantly, insufficient access to clean and safe drinking water and sanitation materials and facilities plays a crucial problem in the area.

Since 2012, Action Against Hunger and the United Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have been working together to provide necessary interventions in Arakan, giving people a chance to hope for change and transformation in the community despite the many challenges they are dealing with. While change is a gradual and cumulative process, Action Against Hunger and UNICEF cannot solve everything with their programs alone. Strong leadership in the community must propel change as a personal statement to allow hope to break through the hearts and minds of the people.

One man has become a champion for change and is trailblazing the work on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Elmer S. Montales works as the Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator of Arakan. In early 2010, he had a personal experience which forever changed the way he deals with WASH issues.

His team was in Kulaman Valley, a remote mountainous area the Matigsalog tribe called home, conducting a standard Barangay survey.  A desperate mother approached them for medicines since her child was not recuperating from diarrhea. “We only had emergency medicine for simple stomach bugs,” he recounted, “early the next morning, we found out that the child died due to dehydration.” It was a tragic experience that led Elmer to rethink his work.

“It is a complicated situation. The local health office reported that water-borne diseases, like diarrhea, are caused by poor sanitation and hygiene practices – some leading to death,” he explained. “Malnutrition is another outcome when people don’t have access to clean water and sanitation.  The children become wasted and stunted during a critical moment of growth whose effects will last a lifetime.”

In his resolve, he could not do it alone.  Elmer needed to influence local leaders of the realities of children dying of diarrhea and that the solution would not come easy. The goal of reversing health outcomes of several barangays seemed daunting and ambitious, but Elmer welcomed the challenge.

Without wasting time, Elmer immediately worked and coordinated with Action Against Hunger and UNICEF to spearhead activities in Arakan by facilitating policy and technical work to ensure that WASH is prioritized in the executive and legislative agenda of the government and included in the Barangay Development Plan.

The journey towards change has not been easy for Elmer. Municipal and barangay officials were indifferent at first, but this changed when the Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) program was implemented and health outcomes began to improve. Cases of Diarrhea and malnutrition have drastically dropped from a prevalence rate of 18% in 2013 to 4.7% in 2018. In 2015, Arakan was able to achieve municipal-wide ZOD out of 11 LGUs in the Philippines, a model that is being followed by other LGUs in North Cotabato and neighboring provinces.  Elmer realized that, as a result of his experience, the journey towards a new reality was slowly taking shape and is impacting the lives of the people.

“The backbone of success is hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance,” Elmer quotes famous soccer icon Mia Hamm, “institutionalizing WASH as a way of life is best realized at the grassroots level of every family, purok and sitio, especially among Indigenous People and far-flung marginalized communities.”  He continues to dream big for his town to improve the lives of the people through the WASH program, to bring in fresh ideas and new ways of working. From the perspective of a planner, contexts are always changing and the quest for new knowledge and experience is constantly evolving.



Kinawayan is a remote barangay situated in the mountainous area of Arakan Valley. 70% of the 238 households living in the barangay are from the Manobo group. Grace Fordan-Rivera was stationed in Barangay Kinawayan from 2010 to 2015 as midwife, under the supervision of the municipal health officer. She championed Action Against Hunger and UNICEF’s WASH programs in the area that emphasized Zero Open Defecation (ZOD).


Why did you personally choose to be a champion for WASH?

  • As a community health worker, seeing young children suffering and dying because of diarrhea is frustrating. I want to help the community, and finding solutions for their problems in WASH is one way.


What were the challenges that you experienced in trying to change social norms in terms of sanitation and hygiene?

  • Most of the people lacked awareness on proper hygiene practices. Changing the behavior of the community, especially in an indigenous people’s (IP) community, was very challenging.


What did you do to address this?

  • To gain their trust and support, I did regular home visits, sometimes walking for 10 kilometers to reach the farthest household to ensure that no one gets left behind. Until now, I constantly meet their community leaders and promote the importance of WASH.


What was the situation regarding hygiene in your barangay before the program began?

  • Prior to Action Against Hunger’s interventions, only 103 out of 238 households were using toilets; the remaining were practicing open defecation. People collected their drinking water from the open spring. Kinawayan has 23.80% malnutrition prevalence rate (MPR), recurring diarrheal cases (12 cases a month), and 2 cases of child death due to diarrhea or dehydration in 2011. They were unaware of the importance of handwashing with soap during critical times.


What were the changes that occurred after the program was implemented?

  • Now, with the WASH intervention, there is a sudden decrease of health-related diseases. Most importantly, from 2013 to current, no child has died because of diarrhea and MPR was reduced to 4.06%. I want Kinawayan to be the role model for other IPs in Arakan to follow.