Many families are displaced and living in evacuation centers after Typhoon Rai, which struck the Philippines in December. As part of its emergency response, Humanity & Inclusion is distributing hygiene kits and multi-purpose cash assistance to families in Surigao.
Schools are being used as emergency shelters. During the day, families work to repair their homes, and sleep in classrooms at night. One evacuee, Jennifer, brought her children’s lessons when they evacuated. Her husband is working to repair their damaged home.
“We will try to fix our house because we can’t stay in the evacuation center,” she explains. “This is the children’s school.”
Mary Joy Maling-on, 38, and her eight children had to leave their home, which is in a landslide-prone area. She received a hygiene kit that includes items like soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, towels, sanitary napkins, a bed pan, masks and a 5-gallon water jug.
"Thank you so much for the kit. It will be useful to my children, especially the soap and toothbrushes,” says Mary Joy Maling-on, pictured below.
Alexander, 47, has difficulty walking. His family and five other families—15 people total—share a classroom on the second floor of a school currently serving as an evacuation center.
"Thank you very much for the hygiene kit, particularly the bedpan that I can use at night,” he says. “The restroom is on the ground floor of the next building, and I only have my lighter to find my way in the dark.”
Displaced families have prioritized finding food and drinking water, both of which are scarce. Humanity & Inclusion and its partners have offered cash assistance to more than 270 families so they can buy food, diapers and other necessities.
Vena, one of the recipients, plans to buy plates, glasses and other kitchen essentials. "Someone gave us sardines, but we also like cassava [yuca],” Vena explains. “With the money, I will buy cassava, charcoal and fish. Thank you!”
Humanity & Inclusion is working with the Surigao City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and JPIC-IDC to help people impacted by the typhoon.
Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to launch its emergency relief operations in the Philippines to assist people following the devastation caused by Typhoon Rai.
More than 1 million people have been affected by Typhoon Rai, which hit the Philippines Dec. 16-18. Humanity & Inclusion was one of the first humanitarian actors to assess the damage in some of the hardest-hit communities.
Emergency aid in two provinces
After having assessed the needs of communities and individuals, Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in the Philippines will start their operations on Dec. 26 in the Bohol and Surigao del Norte.
In Bohol, teams plan to distribute 3,024 temporary shelters to people whose homes have been destroyed, and will provide 2,700 tarps in partnership with another organization. The support will provide families with decent shelter until they can rebuild their homes.
In Surigao Del Norte, Humanity & Inclusion is preparing to distribute 100 hygiene kits, containing items like soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste and sanitary towels. Teams are also set to provide 300 families with cash transfer in three barangays—neighborhoods—in Surigao City. Families will be able to use the aid to buy food in local markets.
“Our teams are happy to be part of these operations. Humanity & Inclusion was one of the first humanitarian organizations to assess needs in the field and we are happy to be returning with assistance to help affected populations,” says Alvin Dumduma, Humanity & Inclusion’s project manager in the Philippines. “We’re keen to start implementing the first aid operations.”
Working with local authorities and community teams, Humanity & Inclusion will identify the families and individuals with the greatest needs to prioritize aid efforts.
“The situation is changing all the time,” Dumduma explains. “People affected by the typhoon do not want to wait around in overcrowded and uncomfortable evacuation centers with limited access to sanitary facilities. They want to return home to rebuild their houses, even by using salvaged materials. We will have to reassess their needs when we start providing them with emergency assistance. With so many people affected, it’s really important to take into account the needs of the most vulnerable people and the most immediate needs.”
Humanity & Inclusion is looking into the possibility of working on child-friendly spaces, with educational and learning activities to ensure children still have access to education, and to provide them with mental health assistance to detect and treat trauma.
In a second phase of the response, the organization plans to distribute non-food items like cooking supplies and dignity kits, including items such as sanitary towels, underwear, toilet paper, and more.
After a devastating typhoon affected more than 1 million people in the Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion’s emergency teams are visiting the hardest-hit areas to determine the most urgent needs.
Super Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette) hit the Philippines a record-breaking nine times between Dec. 16 and 18, destroying numerous regions along the way. Over 1 million people have been affected, with more than 400,000 displaced in evacuation centers and another 64,000 people displaced outside of centers. While official numbers remain unclear, many are reporting more than 300 deaths. The storm brought significant flooding and 125mph winds, damaging and destroying roads, bridges, key infrastructure and over 6,000 homes. Hundreds of cities remain without reliable electricity, communication methods or access to basic goods.
Emergency teams deployed
Humanity & Inclusion was among the first actors to arrive in Bohol, one of the most affected areas, where the organization is conducting needs assessments to determine the most appropriate intervention, limitations and outcomes.
“Christmas is coming and thousands of families are homeless. People are feeling helpless and seeking assistance, but very limited assistance is available,” says Alvin Dumduma, Humanity & Inclusion’s project manager in the Philippines. “The hardest thing about my job right now is seeing my countrymen thirst and starve. Two people died in Surigao City because of dehydration; they did not know where to seek or ask for help.”
Overcrowded, under-resourced evacuation centers
Dumduma and his team are meeting with people staying at evacuation centers.
“The scarcity of food is a major problem in the centers,” Dumduma explains. “There are no hot meals and no ready-to-eat food. People have to cook their own food, but there is only one available cooker for all 800 families in one evacuation center.”
In addition to limited food sources, there are concerns for people’s health and safety.
“There are huge protection risks,” Dumduma continues. “Covid-19 has been forgotten. There is no social distancing or preventative measures; they are fitting as many people as possible into one room.
“Women, men and children are all in the same space. So, there are big protection concerns, especially for women and children at night.”
Dumduma says displaced families are eager to return home, but in many cases, it is unsafe to do so.
“People want to leave the centers and go back to their homes,” he adds. “They want to use salvaged materials and fallen trees to make a tent for shelter. This can put them in even more danger, as the materials are not stable, and in the coming days, even more rain is expected.”
Shortage of basic needs
In the most impacted areas, people are forming long lines at gas stations (pictured above), grocery stores and water stations.
“People are becoming increasingly worried that in the coming days, they will no longer have access to basic needs or gasoline, which is essential to power most machinery here,” Dumduma says. “Some water is being sent, but it is not enough considering the huge number of individuals in need. So many provinces have been affected and are calling for support.”
There is much work to be done as disaster response and recovery efforts continue.
“There is a lot of damage. We see children walking barefoot in debris and fallen trees,” Dumduma adds. “People are feeling helpless, but the Humanity & Inclusion team is still motivated and optimistic. We need to stay positive. People are smiling again when they see us arrive. Talking and listening to the affected community right now is a simple way to let them know we are here for them.”
Typhoon Rai caused significant material damages across the middle of the Philippines. Humanity & Inclusion has an emergency team in one of the hardest-hit areas to identify needs.
Less than 48 hours after Typhoon Rai made landfall across the center of the Philippines, a Humanity & Inclusion emergency team reached the island of Bohol, one of the most affected by the storm’s devastating winds and floods. The team’s focus is on measuring the extent of damages, and identifying the most urgent needs among residents.
"When we arrived in Bohol, we could see that 90 to 95% of the houses had been submerged by the floods,” explains Alvin Dumduma, project manager for Humanity & Inclusion in Philippines. “And the houses made of light materials, like wood and metal sheets, are totally destroyed or have been swept away.”
As of Dec. 20, the death toll has risen to at least 375 people across the country. However, this toll is expected to rise, given the scale of the destruction and access difficulties, in particular due to damaged and cut-off roadways. In addition, communications were still very unstable as of Sunday evening local time.
"In the immediate future, the most urgent needs are access to drinking water, food, clothing and basic medicines,” Dumduma notes.
Due to the violent winds that affected the central Philippines, many families have lost everything. The region’s main economic activity is tourism, which was already impacted due to Covid-19 restrictions. The typhoon’s destructive nature may further aggravate the situation, and is expected to impact tourism activities in the next months.
Humanity & Inclusion teams will continue their evaluations on Monday. They’ll determine how the organization can best support the people with the greatest needs after the storm, including people with disabilities and aging residents.
In the last 20 years, natural disasters in the Philippines have claimed the lives of more than 31,000 people, and affected 98 million people. Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the country in November 2013, claimed 8,000 lives and impacted the lives of nearly 15 million people.
Humanity & Inclusion has launched an emergency response to evaluate the impact of Super Typhoon Rai/Odette, which hit the Philippines on Dec. 16.
More than 332,800 people are displaced and staying in more than 300 evacuation centers throughout the central Philippines. The super typhoon directly affected nearly 68,000 people, according to early estimates. Reaching winds over 195 mph, this storm was as powerful as Typhoon Yolanda in 2013.
“The most impacted regions are rural areas, many of which are islands, with many traditional houses that are fragile and less resistant to this kind of disaster,” says Marie Catherine Mabrut, Humanity & Inclusion’s program manager in the Philippines. “Telephone and internet communications have been interrupted all day, which does not yet allow us to know the extent of the damage and the impact of the typhoon on the areas it has crossed.”
Deploying emergency teams
Humanity & Inclusion is deploying two teams to assess damages and community needs.
“A team will leave soon for the north of the island of Mindanao to conduct a needs analysis,” explains Mabrut. “A second team will leave as soon as possible from Manila. We hope communication services will quickly be restored, so that we can contact our partners. This is particularly important in the Central Visayas to give us a clearer vision of needs, particularly for people living with disabilities.”
Humanity & Inclusion’s staff in the Philippines is coordinating with other international actors, such as Relief International, Save the Children and Médecins du Monde. Humanity & Inclusion brings nearly 40 years of experience in emergency response, especially expertise in inclusive disaster relief efforts.
After an intense typhoon passed through the Philippines on Thursday, Humanity & Inclusion's teams are ready to take action.
Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate their homes to seek shelter as Super Typhoon Rai/Odette made landfall. Bringing with it winds of up to 125 mph, the typhoon hit several islands, and communities are still at risk of flooding, landslides and the destruction of infrastructure.
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams on the ground are preparing to travel to the affected areas as soon as it's safe to do so. Staff will move to rapidly assess the needs of the population, including people with disabilities, in order to determine specific needs and urgency.
Preparing for disasters
The Philippines is one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Typhoons are common and their after-effects—landslides, flash floods, etc.—are devastating.
In the last two decades, more than 31,000 people have been killed and 98 million people affected by natural disasters in the Philippines. In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan claimed 8,000 lives and impacted nearly 15 million people.
Humanity & Inclusion has been a leading natural disaster response actor for several years and operates a disaster risk reduction project in the Philippines. In 2020, the organization responded to Typhoon Rolly-Goni, and this year a study of landslides was carried out with a range of partners to better understand and prepare for those events. Next year, Humanity & Inclusion will launch a project to review the country’s disaster preparedness and alert mechanisms.
Through a project called Forward Together, Humanity & Inclusion is addressing a challenge that young people with disabilities face every day: unemployment.
Forward Together is an inclusive employment and livelihood project led by Humanity & Inclusion in the Philippines and Indonesia. Throughout a successful three-year pilot phase, teams learned how to become more efficient, while supporting 380 young people with disabilities and more than 50 companies to be more inclusive of workers with disabilities. The project is now being relaunched in the Philippines and Indonesia, and will later arrive in Vietnam.
The project empowers people between the ages of 18 and 45 with disabilities, by increasing their access to decent employment.
The approach is two-fold: Forward Together engages companies who want to hire youth with disabilities, then supports young people with disabilities in accessing jobs. This is done through personalized coaching to ensure prospective workers develop the skills needed to enter the workforce or start their own business. Humanity & Inclusion teams also provide technical assistance to employers to prepare them to recruit, retain and provide professional development opportunities for employees with disabilities.
Fighting systemic exclusion
The systemic exclusion of persons with disabilities, especially in the workplace, is one of the forms of social prejudice that youth with disabilities experience regularly. This situation worsened during the Covid-19 period during which young people with disabilities became more marginalized than ever.
In the Philippines, for example, even with a formal degree, a person who is blind will generally not have access to training or a profession that matches their skill level. In fact, the only common profession available to people with visual disabilities is massage therapy.
‘Young people often have skills and commitment that could get them a good job or position,” says Twyla David, Humanity & Inclusion’s Forward Together coordinator, who helped launch the project in 2018. “At HI, we're working to ensure that they can access decent, productive employment."
Centering skills and passions
Young people participating in Forward Together can choose between self-employment or being hired by an employer. Humanity & Inclusion provides personalized support, including assistance devices such as special screens or glasses, mobility aids, coaching sessions, as well as allowances to support them financially until they receive their first paycheck. Even after landing a job, Humanity & Inclusion conducts home visits, provides ongoing job coaching and organizes peer support groups for project participants.
“They have to be of working age with basic literacy, a satisfactory level of autonomy and ability, and with adequate support from their families,” David explains. “We use the personalized social support approach; we try to bring their skills and passions to the forefront. We want to help them to work where they feel safe, productive and valued.”
She shares the story of Kyenna (pictured), a 26-year-old who is an advocate for the Deaf community.
“Kyenna has a hearing disability and communicates through sign language,” David says. “She specializes in video editing, special effects, digital illustration and layout. HI has been supporting Kyenna in the pursuit of her professional goals through coaching, training, and job preparation such as mock interviews.”
Now, Kyenna is pursuing a career in visual graphic design in Manila.
A community effort
While each participant is at the heart of the project, stakeholders are also important. Humanity & Inclusion works together with a pool of young jobseekers, companies of all sizes, public employment offices, technical schools and professional institutions.
David explains that the goal of the project is for the job market to become “disability-Inclusive, sustainable, and community-based.”
Humanity & Inclusion works alongside companies to strengthen their capacity to hire people with disabilities and protect their rights in the work place. Teams provide businesses with technical support and training sessions on disability awareness, inclusive hiring and talent acquisition. The project also supports companies in drafting inclusive business continuity plans and inclusive disaster risk management for their offices.
“It does not matter to us if the company has experience hiring persons with disabilities or not,” David says. “The most important is their readiness to do so. We help them with the most difficult step in achieving inclusive employment: getting started.”
In the Philippines, frequent natural disasters have serious consequences for people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion works closely with affected communities to ensure inclusive disaster preparation.
Located in the North Pacific typhoon belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire, the country experiences frequent cyclones, volcanic activity and earthquakes, putting its more than 100,000,000 residents at risk.
“Persons with disabilities are invisible during crisis events in the Philippines, whether caused by cyclones, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or COVID-19,” explains Carissa Galla, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction Technical Specialist for the region. “How many people with disabilities are affected? How many can access humanitarian assistance? How many receive warning information and can evacuate safely? This information is rarely collected, so the needs are not considered. We need to work with persons with disabilities and their organizations to ensure that no one is invisible during emergencies.”
In the event of disaster, people with disabilities are up to four times more likely to lose their lives than those without disabilities. They are often left out of disaster preparedness planning, resulting in accessibility barriers and a lack of adapted emergency resources.
Humanity & Inclusion operates inclusive Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) projects in 15 countries, including the Philippines: one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world.
Empowering local leaders
In the Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion teams are working to reduce the vulnerability of 32 barangays—small administrative districts—devastated by Typhoon Ompong in 2018, and to prepare for disaster risks by enhancing the meaningful, inclusive participation of civil societies in disaster and climate risk governance.
Project EMPOWER, funded by the European Union and operated by Humanity & Inclusion in partnership with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency, aims to:
- Develop preparedness plans in 3,000 households
- Distribute 26 inclusive early warning kits to communities including items such as megaphones, whistles, bells, and visual devices such as color-coded flags, communication cards, reflective vests, ponchos, LED flashlights, solar panels, headlamps, and transistor radios
- Remove barriers for aging people, people with disabilities, children and women in DRR actions
- Increase the number of women leaders and active members of disaster and climate risk governance structures by more than 500
- Increase community organization-led climate risk initiatives by 80%
- Improve municipality contingency plans and implement 26 climate risk help desks
- Conduct and create modules for inclusive DRR training for organizations and policymakers
- Host gender, age and disability sensitivity workshops and simulation exercises
- Collect data regarding gender, age, disability, risks and resources.
Uplifting voices of impacted people
“When Typhoon Ompong hit our municipality and killed 94 people, I realized the importance of citizens' participation in risk governance,” says Avelino Tomas, Regional President of the Organization of People with Disabilities. “Persons with disabilities are capable of taking control of their lives and safety. We must allow them to participate and contribute to disaster and climate risk governance."
Not only must we include their needs in disaster risk reduction efforts, we must ensure that people with disabilities are active contributors to the response. According to a UN 2013 survey, 50% of people with disabilities said they wished to participate in disaster risk reduction efforts, but only 17% were aware of any plans in their community.
Many authorities focus on what people with disabilities cannot do while ignoring their expertise and capability to lead initiatives. In the Philippines and elsewhere, misconceptions and barriers to participation give people the false impression that people with disabilities can only be passive recipients of assistance. Surveys revealed that many in the community perceived these individuals as “victims,” “fragile,” or “burdens” in a disaster scenario.
Carmela Penchon, Secretary of the Federation of Persons with Disabilities in Itogen shared that as a woman with a disability, she felt unable to actively contribute to climate governance policies. After attending a Humanity & Inclusion awareness session on disability, gender and age sensitivity, she has become an outspoken and active advocate, championing ways to protect her community and lead DRR and climate change management initiatives.
Global climate change conference
Humanity & Inclusion is attending COP26, the UN’s Climate Change Conference, in Glasgow, Scotland, to advocate for the inclusion of people with disabilities in disaster risk reduction and climate change governance around the world. Over a billion people are concerned by inclusive risk reduction planning and climate action, and it is no longer acceptable for policymakers to exclude people with disabilities from response efforts.
To mark International Women's Day on March 8, we talked to Reiza Dejito, a strong woman who is deeply committed to both her family and her role at Humanity & Inclusion. Currently serving as the Program Director for Nepal, India and Sri Lanka, Reiza has worked in numerous countries affected by humanitarian crises for two decades.
Why did you decide to join Humanity & Inclusion?
I graduated in science and physical therapy, and I earned diplomas in teaching and then management. I also completed several volunteer missions in the Philippines (my home country) and Ethiopia. And then, three months after leaving Ethiopia, I joined Humanity & Inclusion as a victim assistance project manager in Bor, South Sudan. Since then, I have worked in Kenya, Bangladesh, the Philippines and now Nepal.
Is there one experience that really stands out?
Working with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh. They’ve suffered so much. One woman told me how she watched helpless as her husband was murdered and her house was burned down. A 9-year-old child, who was injured in the arm by a bullet after being caught in the crossfire, told me he’d forgiven the attacker for hitting the wrong target. Men, women and children walked for days and days to cross the border with little food and water. Awful.
As a director in the Philippines, I joined the emergency team to help the victims of Super Typhoon Goni. I was extremely impressed by the resilience and generosity of Filipinos. And the commitment of my team and partner organizations to provide assistance to those who needed it most.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
As Program Director, I’m responsible for the security and protection of my teams and ensuring they are safe and sound, and in good health, especially during emergencies, crises and conflicts. In 2016, I had to manage the evacuation of Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in South Sudan following a series of deadly clashes between armed groups. It was the most trying experience of my career.
What's really important when it comes to working with your team?
Trust. Transparency. Empathy. And being able to laugh together.
Humanitarian and mother: how do you strike the right balance?
For many women, achieving this balance is a huge challenge and often prevents them from taking on more responsible positions. I’m extremely fortunate to have a supportive family and a husband who takes care of our child when I’m working. Thanks to their support, I can do the job I do. My family is my biggest incentive. They really inspire me to do better every day.
Is gender equity a challenge in the humanitarian sector?
I’ve been personally fortunate to work with male colleagues and team leaders who are advocates for women's leadership. But while many women work in the humanitarian sector, there are still too few in senior positions. Many organizations have made a lot of progress, but not enough. There is a great deal of work to do before we achieve greater equity. It’s not an easy task, because these inequalities run deep. They’ve been entrenched in cultural, social, financial and political life for generations. It’s not simply a question of empowering women and advancing their rights, but of changing corporate cultures. Men also have a role to play here. I want to see women access positions of responsibility just like men. I think we'll get there...slowly but surely.
Header image: A Filipino woman named Reiza (wearing the blue visor) and another woman carry a tub of supplies after Typhoon Goni in the Philippines. Copyright: HI
Inline image: Reiza squats down to talk with a girl who has an artificial leg at a refugee camp in Kakuma, Kenya, in 2015. Copyright: Xavier Bourgois/HI
The COVID-19 crisis hasn’t stopped Humanity & Inclusion from providing personalized care for people with disabilities.
Danwell P. Esperas full-time job is helping people with disabilities find gainful employment opportunities, something that often proves difficult due to discrimination, inaccessibility or stigma. But his work doesn’t stop there. As a personalized social support officer for Humanity & Inclusion, Danwell provides tailored follow-up care for people in Valenzuela, a city near Manila in the Philippines, helping them access community resources and take care of their mental, physical and economic wellbeing.
Danwell works under Humanity & Inclusion’s Forward Together Project: Empowering Youth with Disabilities in Asia, which aims to help people between 18 and 40 with disabilities access meaningful employment in Manila, Philippines and Jakarta, Indonesia.
Preparing people with disabilities for the workforce
Danwell, a registered nurse by profession but a development working by heart, provides personalized social support that empowers project participants to learn more about themselves, improve their skills, access employment opportunities, and reach their life goals.
In May 2019, Danwell met a man who is deaf, with aspirations to work for a manufacturing company. Starting with an initial assessment, Danwell guided the man in creating a personalized action plan and provided advice on writing a resume and giving a successful job interview. After two weeks of coaching sessions, the participant landed a job, where he was also able to teach his co-workers the basics of Filipino sign language.
Covid-19 presents unique challenges
Unfortunately, like so many people around the world, Covid-19 pandemic plunged the man into a new and serious economic crisis. He lost his job, but Danwell continued to support him by providing sessions to cope with the trauma and information on accessing assistance from different government agencies.
He is just one of the project participants who Danwell has continued to coach amid the pandemic through remote sessions on Covid-19 prevention and awareness, stress management, the importance of self-care, and how to access financial assistance and goods being provided by the government. Humanity & Inclusion’s Forward Together project also adapted its strategies to Covid-19 by providing cash transfers to project participants so they can afford basic needs like housing, food and medicine.