High Energy Biscuits and rice bring comfort to Filipino families during unexpected rainfall and flooding
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Published on 31 January 2011

 HEBs on Jeepneys - HEB Distribution in remote areas of the Bicol region.

Dark clouds hovering over and around the perfect cone of the iconic Mayon volcano.  Strong rains over the city of Legaspi in the province of Albay.  Flash floods and landslides across the region.  These adverse weather patterns at this time of the year come as a surprise to most Bicolanos (a term used to refer to people from the Bicol region), who usually expect the rainy season in the Philippines to have ended by September. 

BICOL – According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), the tail-end of a cold front combined with the northeast Monsoon which began at the end of December 2010 resulted in widespread rains triggering landslides and floods and causing the death of 70 persons and affected over 1.8 million people in 25 provinces across the country—in Southern Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.  Additionally, some flood-affected communities were temporarily displaced

In response to the Philippine Government’s request for complementary assistance to its ongoing relief operations, WFP, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), provided nearly 55 tons of high energy biscuits (HEBs) to 48,000 people targeted in the provinces of Albay and Sorsogon in the Bicol region, to prevent short-term hunger and provide additional nutritional supplements. 

Affected livelihoods

Although most of the temporarily displaced flood-affected populations returned to their homes after being in evacuation centers for over a week, continuous adverse weather and sea conditions have prevented them from resuming their normal livelihoods, which mostly consist of fishing and farming. 

Fishermen are unable to fish, whilst farmers have returned to crop failure, or reduced production of their key cash crops. The Department of Agriculture estimates a total crop damage of $1.7 million.

A WFP-conducted Rapid Food Security Assessment (RFSA) showed that these typhoon-affected families have resorted to negative coping mechanisms such as reducing food consumption, using up meagre savings and borrowing food and money to feed their families. 

The weeks ahead

While floodwaters in some areas have subsided, meteorologists are suggesting that continuous rains may be linked to the La Nina weather phenomenon and in this case, may continue at least until the end of March 2011.  Concern is increasingly shifting to the long-term impact the rains are having on smallholder farmers, fishermen and the urban poor. In this regard, WFP will support the government’s efforts further with complementary rice assistance of 550 tons, targeting over 100,000 of the most vulnerable, flood-affected beneficiaries, including in some parts of Mindanao. Distributions are expected to start early February.