As part of its humanitarian mandate, the UN World Food Programme stands ready to complement and support relief and early recovery efforts of the Government of the Philippines if requested and based on assessed needs. Most recently, WFP has been working with the Department of Social Welfare and Development to assist more than 250,000 people who have been affected by Tropical Storm Washi (locally called 'Sendong') that struck northern Mindanao in mid-December 2011. What many people may not know is that WFP is also working very hard to build up national and local level capacities to better prepare for natural disasters.
“My municipality faces multiple hazards. We often have to deal with floods and landslides induced by torrential rains and typhoons and even occasional volcanic eruptions,” Jimmy J. Fragata, Mayor of Juban municipality in Sorsogon province in the northern island of Luzon, explains during a large-scale emergency response simulation exercise that WFP - in coordination with the Philippine Government’s National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) – recently facilitated with support from the Australian Government (AusAID).
A visits a warehouse being constructed in his municipality as part of disaster preparedness efforts
Preparing For The Worst Scenario
When a disaster strikes, the clock starts ticking to save lives and get affected people necessary relief support as quickly as possible. And in a country like the Philippines, which is lashed by around 20 typhoons each year, this means disaster preparedness is a priority, which is why WFP supports the Philippine Government’s national strategy to better plan for and manage disaster risks.
A recent simulation exercise is part of these efforts, and Mayor Fragata is among the over 100 participants who have come from various government agencies, local governments, United Nations agencies and NGOs to strengthen their disaster response capabilities.
“We are getting overloaded with new information, e-mails and phone calls, and now we have to set up a meeting with the governor to handle the situation. 63 people have died and more than 6,000 households are affected in our community,” he says, completely absorbed in the exercise.
The comprehensively researched and realistically constructed emergency response scenario depicted two typhoons, fictionally named Caprice and Devlin, striking much of the Luzon region of the country with mass devastation. Participants represent their own respective agencies or administrative bodies and are challenged to act on a continuous flow of information in order to implement a timely disaster response. “I know it’s a realistic scenario, but I still hope such a disaster will never occur in reality as lives are on the line,” adds Mayor Fragata.
Disaster Preparedness In A Disaster-Prone CountryTitle
A warehouse being built in the Municipality of Juban in Sorsogon Province
Beyond the simulation exercise, WFP Philippines, with funding support from United States Agency for International Development/Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), currently implements projects in four highly disaster-prone provinces of the country that focus on building the resilience of local communities and strengthening the capacity of local governments to reduce disaster risks.
In Mayor Fragata's municipality, WFP supports a local level partnership which involves repair of three frequently-used evacuation centers and construction of a centralized emergency operation center in which emergency goods, supplies and equipment will be pre-positioned for immediate deployment when needed.
This year, WFP is seeking additional resources to further consolidate and expand its disaster preparedness and response programme.
“I hope WFP will continue to support us,” Mayor Fragata says with a glimmer of hope in his eyes.