Yolanda commemoration 2016: looking back but moving forward

In the photo: Residents of Brgy. Castilla, Palo, Leyte during one of the ICBDRRM training conducted by Handicap International in the frame of the IDRR Project. © Rowen Obaña / Handicap International

In the photo: Residents of Brgy. Castilla, Palo, Leyte during one of the ICBDRRM training conducted by Handicap International in the frame of the IDRR Project. © Rowen Obaña / Handicap International

On this day, three years ago, super typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda) made landfall in the Visayas, the central section of the Philippines. It is said that Haiyan is the strongest typhoon in history to make landfall. Thousands of persons perished. Handicap International was one of the very first organisations that responded to the affected people in the area late 2013.

It was the organisation’s Emergency Division which led disaster response and rehabilitation initiatives in Sigma, Capiz province (Region 6); Cebu City, Cebu province (Region 7); and Tacloban City and surrounding municipalities, Leyte province (Region 8). Handicap International focused on persons with disabilities and other vulnerable individuals and provided them with shelter kits, water purification pumps, psychosocial sessions, livelihood programs, physiotherapy sessions and assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches.

In 2015, the Emergency Division ended their mission but the organisation’s efforts did not falter. Handicap International launched three development projects, namely: SURGE, IDRR, and iRESTORE.

With the collective aim to increase resilience of high-risk communities in the Philippines, Handicap International, along with Christian Aid, Oxfam and Plan International, formed the consortium Scaling Up Resilience in Governance or SURGE, with the objective to extend the learnings on inclusive community-based disaster risk reduction (ICBDRR) to more communities and advocates for improvements in disaster risk management policies and practices.

Through SURGE, 2,783 organizations have been informed and influenced for inclusion in disaster risk reduction (IDRR) and management policy and practices; 94 schools have been guided to be inclusive and disaster ready; 100 ICBDRR champions advocated for IDRR and participated in peer-to-peer mentoring; 15 resource centers were established; 6 national policy papers have been influenced; and the DRR Knowledge Center (drrknowledge.net) has been handed over to Office of Civil Defense (OCD).

On the other hand, Strengthening the Capacity of Local Government Units and Vulnerable Households in Inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (IDRR) Project was an initiative that aimed to enhance existing community-based DRRM practices to be more inclusive.

The IDRR Project produced the Lahat Handa Training Manual, a supplementary manual to OCD’s Basic Instructor’s Guide Manual which discusses approaches to inclusion and accessibility in all DRRM processes. Moreover, the project trained individuals from different organizations and agencies to serve as master trainers on inclusive CBDRRM. The project team also worked in Palo and Pastrana municipalities of Leyte province, both Yolanda-affected areas, capacitating officials of barangays (villages) on ICBDRRM and individual household to prepare themselves to face future hazards.

Lastly, Handicap International launched the Restoring Livelihoods and Building the Resilience of Most Vulnerable People Affected by Typhoon Haiyan (iRESTORE) Project in October 2015 in consortium with Plan International with the aim to partner with the local government agencies and other stakeholders of the Province of Capiz to address the recovery needs of typhoon-affected communities in a way that is resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

On this day, three years ago, Yolanda hit the Philippines. But instead of mourning and remembering how Yolanda negatively affected the Philippines, we at Handicap International would like to focus on how people recovered and moved on from the tragedy. Three years after Yolanda, we would like to look back not to grieve, but to see how far the people and communities built their lives back better.