Philippines: Emergency Nutrition Support In A Time of Disaster
Published on 27 September 2012

Marilou and her children in their makeshift house at the Baseco Compound, after returning from the evacuation center

Photo: WFP/Anthony Lim

When the combined forces of Typhoon Saola and a southwest monsoon submerged nearly a third of Metro Manila and its neighbouring province in early August 2012 , WFP Philippines immediately provided High Energy Biscuits to supplement the Philippine Government's emergency relief efforts. Marilou Perez and her seven children, who live in a slum area in Manila, were among those who received this assistance. 

MANILA - Marilou Perez is a widow with seven children. Last year, her husband was killed in an accident, leaving her as the sole provider for her family. Marilou makes a living by selling balut, a Filipino delicacy made of fertilized duck embryo, boiled and eaten in the shell. She roams the streets at night selling balut, which allows her to earn roughly Php70 to Php120 (about USD1.70 to USD2.90) a day, just enough to buy rice, dried fish, noodles and vegetables.

The income is not much, thus her family has to live in the slum area of the Baseco Compound – located near the Port Area of Manila City – in a makeshift house with an area of around six square feet, elevated from the ground by a foot. With 8 people staying in such cramped quarters, there really is no more space for furniture inside their house – no beds, chairs, and tables. Each night, Marilou and her children have to contend with sleeping on the hard floor of their shanty.  

This was the situation for Marilou and her family when Typhoon Saola combined with a southwest monsoon resulting to continuous torrential rains in early August , which eventually submerged nearly a third of Metro Manila and its neighbouring provinces.

Over four million people, including Marilou and her family, were affected by this convergence of monsoon and typhoon weather systems. Since their house is located very near Manila Bay, they had to seek refuge from the rising floodwaters.  “We had nowhere to sleep. And because our house doesn’t have a second floor, we had to stay at an evacuation centre,” says Marilou.

The heavy, continuous rain not only flooded the family’s house but temporarily disrupted her work as well. Marilou could not sell balut until the floods have subsided, so she and her family had to rely on the hot meals and food assistance from the local government, including those from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), whose relief efforts were supported by various humanitarian and non-government organizations in the country. 

Through the local government, Marilou’s family received food rations that included High Energy Biscuits (HEBs) from WFP.  HEBs contain vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that is why these food items are often distributed during the first few days of an emergency, when people have limited access to food and cooking facilities.

WFP provided 52.5 tons of HEBS to the DSWD for inclusion in and distribution of the government's food relief packs to areas severely affected by the flooding. These WFP HEBs reached 262,500 flood-affected individuals in Metro Manila and neighbouring provinces.

WFP also delivered 60 tons of Plumpy ‘Doz, a nutritious ready-to-use supplementary food for children aged 6 to 36 months, to the Department of Health for distribution to some 50,000 children affected by the floods.

WFP Offices
About the author

Ruby Senin

Ruby Senin worked as a Field Monitor for WFP Manila.