As increasing exposure to weather-related hazards creates significant needs in Madagascar, Humanity & Inclusion supports development of adapted solutions.
Madagascar is one of the most prone countries to extreme weather hazards in the world, and the third most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Frequent flooding, tropical storms, cyclones and droughts have devastating impacts on the population and humanitarian needs throughout the island. Climate change is expected to further increase both the frequency and strength of extreme weather events over time.
Five storms, two months
Madagascar’s annual cyclone season spans from November to March. During this time, at least one or two cyclones are expected to cause heavy rains, winds, flooding and rising sea levels. In early 2022 alone, the country experienced five tropical storms, including two intense cyclones that occurred only two weeks apart and followed similar paths of destruction.
Between January and March, over 200 people died from these storms. Around 420,000 have been affected, and more than 169,000 people had their homes damaged or destroyed. Families were left without access to food, drinking water, electricity, shelter, or basic hygiene supplies following each storm. Hospitals, schools and farmland were largely demolished, leaving populations without medical care, children without education and entire agricultural-dependent communities without food production or livelihoods, all of which will have long-term consequences. Around 150,000 acres of rice fields were flooded twice by the back-to-back cyclones and some areas lost as much as 90% of food production sources.
The worst drought in 40 years
While the northern and eastern regions of the country have faced flooding and heavy rains, the south has been experiencing the worst drought in 40 years. Following several years of below-average rainfall, approximately 1.5 million people in the region are now alarmingly food insecure.
“The population relies heavily on subsistence agriculture and rain-fed crops,” explains Lili Bazin, Humanity & Inclusion’s Disaster Risk Reduction technical referent. “So the drought has dramatic impacts on their food security and livelihoods.”
Between 2018 and 2021, the price of water increased by 300%. Some families have reported eating dirt or boiling strips of leather just to get by. The alarming lack of food puts pregnant people and children under the age of 5 at heightened risk of malnutrition, which could result in developmental complications.
Such dramatic meteorological events feed into a vicious cycle: natural disasters create humanitarian need by causing destruction, while pre-existing sources of vulnerability magnify the consequences of those disasters.
Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world, making the population that much more vulnerable in times of crisis. When faced with the stresses of food insecurity or disaster, many are forced to sell their assets or pull children out of school. Education dropout rates have increased since the drought began, as have rates of gender-based violence and early marriage. With resources and infrastructure frequently threatened, rebuilding becomes increasingly difficult, and needs continue to grow.
Populations with the greatest needs are often left behind in at-risk regions, as many cannot afford to relocate from isolated regions or lack the resources to do so, such as information or transportation. Impacts are even greater on older populations, pregnant people, people with disabilities, and people from minority groups who may face discrimination or physical barriers to accessing aid.
Reducing the impact
“200 deaths this year is of course 200 more than we want,” says Olivier Benquet, Humanity & Inclusion’s geographic director for Madagascar. “But there is some good news: This is a relatively low number considering the scale of these disasters. That is the result of improving disaster risk reduction.”
Humanity & Inclusion has implemented disaster risk reduction projects throughout the world, and in Madagascar specifically, for years. To better prepare communities faced with climate shocks and events, the organization strengthens local structures, supports education services, raises awareness of risks, implements monitoring and early warning systems, and assists individuals in making their livelihoods more sustainable, among other initiatives.
“We can’t prevent the wind, and we can’t prevent the rains,” Bazin adds. “But we can keep natural events from becoming natural disasters by predicting where they may strike, anticipating their impacts on lives and livelihoods, and by acting accordingly ahead of time to prepare communities.”
Inclusive proactive planning
In January, Humanity & Inclusion launched a three-year disaster risk reduction project to put inclusive anticipatory action in three countries prone to natural disasters: Madagascar, Haiti and the Philippines. The initiative uses the science of weather and climate to anticipate possible impacts in risk-prone areas and mobilizes teams, materials and practices to enact early action protocol and mitigate potential impacts before they can be felt. Through the initiative, Humanity & Inclusion will conduct studies to better understand associated risks on vulnerable populations, locate affected communities, reinforce community capacities to respond, run simulation exercises and ensure the inclusion of marginalized groups in these efforts.
“With today’s technology and meteorological forecasts, we can see a cyclone coming in advance,” Benquet explains. “When we see that, we can start to move our teams to the targeted areas, stock supplies, warn communities, evacuate people, and reinforce structures. We know these events are going to happen more often, so it is critical that we adapt and further develop our risk reduction efforts in the face of environmental changes.”
In Madagascar alone, the project targets nearly 330,000 people. In Haiti, it aims to benefit over 200,000 and another 200,000 in the Philippines.
“We will always support communities recovering from disaster,” Bazin says. “But at the end of the day, if we can prepare ahead of time and prevent the disaster from occurring, that’s the real goal."
Humanity & Inclusion is committed to reducing the adverse effects of climate change on populations worldwide. We help communities prepare for and adapt to climate shocks and stresses, and we respond to crises magnified by environmental factors. Applying a disability, gender and age (DGA) inclusion lens across all our actions, we advocate for practitioners and policy-makers to embed DGA in their climate work as well. Humanity & Inclusion is also determined to reduce its own ecological footprint by adapting and implementing environmentally conscious approaches to humanitarian action.
Humanity & Inclusion teams continue to assist people affected by Super Typhoon Rai, which slammed into the Philippines on Dec. 16.
Millions of people have been directly affected by Super Typhoon Rai (locally called Odette), which has left many without shelter, electricity, access to earning a living, or clean water. The passage of the typhoon, combined with 18 months of crisis linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, has generated a major humanitarian crisis in the impacted part of the Philippines.
Following the onslaught of Typhoon Rai, Humanity & Inclusion deployed two teams to assess urgent humanitarian needs in the field. The organization is now assisting disaster-affected people in the provinces of Surigao City and Bohol, both devastated by the storm.
The violent typhoon caused much more damage than initially expected, and 405 people were killed. More than 10 million people are affected. Approximately 1.7 million houses were damaged or destroyed and nearly 25 million acres of crops were ravaged in seven regions. Millions of families have lost their homes or live in extreme poverty, and 2.2 million workers have no income or have been directly affected, according to a recent OCHA report.
Prioritizing disaster response
Humanity & Inclusion focuses its efforts on the most affected people, prioritizing people with disabilities and individuals in particularly vulnerable circumstances. This includes aging individuals and people with health complications, who are often left out of humanitarian responses or unable to access aid.
Humanity & Inclusion’s teams provide them with cash transfers to meet their basic needs. Staff also distribute hygiene kits containing soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, sanitary towels, a bedpan, fabric masks and 5-gallon water jug to help to respond to situations where there is no longer access to running water or sanitation facilities.
Emergency shelter kits
Teams are also distributing emergency shelter kits in the Bohol province, including sheets, tools other home-repair equipment. The organization also supplies households with solar-powered lamps, mosquito nets, bedding and cooking supplies. Humanity & Inclusion is working in partnership with Shelter Box, an international disaster relief that provides emergency shelter and other aid items to families who have lost their homes to disaster or conflict, and in conjunction with local authorities.
“I can repair my home myself if I get construction materials,” says Raul Evardo, a stroke survivor, husband and father of two, whose house was blown away by the typhoon.
Evardo stayed behind in his village while his wife and children went to Buenavista city where they work and study. Once the electricity is reconnected and he has dealt with his most pressing problems, he plans to start welding again and find a job. He hopes to build a more robust house and put this nightmare behind him.
Victor Rescober, Vice President of the Philippine Blind Union, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s partners, explains why it is essential to support community-based organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs).
The Global Disability Summit (GDS), held Feb. 15-17, 2022, can be a very significant event for people with disabilities if their voices are heard and if the international community addresses their needs properly and respects their human rights. We must therefore encourage greater participation by grassroots-level OPDs. It is essential to provide these organizations with the support they need to attend or be represented at international events like the GDS.
All supporting organizations advocating for the rights, development and empowerment of persons with disabilities should consult persons with disabilities directly and encourage their active participation. They should be included in every stage, from planning through to policy development and programming. Supporting organizations should also help grassroots and community-based OPDs to access funding for their development projects.
Humanity & Inclusion is in the forefront when it comes to implementing clear, concrete policies and good practices for the empowerment of persons with disabilities. Working with Humanity & Inclusion is really fulfilling and meaningful as this is an organization that seeks to ensure that the full potential of persons with disabilities is being recognized and enhanced.
Philippine Blind Union
The Philippine Blind Union (PBU) is the national federation of and for people with visual impairments in the Philippines. There are approximately 500,000 blind or visually impaired people in the country and the majority of them are poor and uneducated. We advocate for the promotion, protection and exercise of their basic human rights, we raise public awareness and fight for policy development.
The PBU works on inclusive education and training, employment and livelihood programs for blind and visually impaired people, as well as on accessibility. We ensure equal access to programs and services by providing assistive devices, such as white canes. We also provide mobile phones for senior high school students with visual impairments to allow them to access online classes.
The road to inclusion
Inclusion is not limited to social, economic, cultural or political aspects. Inclusion means that persons with disabilities are able to actively and meaningfully participate in all aspects of daily life, just like anybody else.
In the education field, we have seen an increase in the enrollment of special-needs education students in public elementary schools. According to the Department of Education, the numbers rose from 37,000 special-needs education students in 2014-2015 to 42,000 in 2015-2016. Over the same period, there were an estimated 40,000 blind and visually impaired children of school age, according to the Resources for the Blind Inc. However, inclusive education is still at the very early stages in the Philippines, although a national policy is currently under discussion.
Much advocacy is still needed to achieve concrete outcomes in health and humanitarian action. Even when national guidelines exist, implementing good practices remains a challenge. This has been especially true during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, persons with disabilities must really get out there and voice their needs if they are not to be left behind.
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.”