Tropical storm Washi that hit the South of the Philippines in December 2011 devastated the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan and forced many to move to evacuation centers. Five months later, the population is still struggling to deal with its aftermath. Handicap International improves accessibility and conditions within those centers and continues the support to the most vulnerable Washi-affected individuals.
Handicap International, operational in the Philippines since 1985, has conducted a massive identification and a comprehensive assessment of 300 vulnerable Washi-affected individuals by visiting evacuation centers, transitory sites and affected communities. Twenty percent of those afflicted were given assistive devices (e.g. canes, wheelchairs) and twelve percent were given medical intervention referrals (e.g. eye and physical check-up). To further improve the access to services, several modifications were constructed in evacuation centers.
“Many houses were destroyed”, explains Cahterine Vasseur, program director of Handicap International in the Philippines. “So the local government decided to transfer the homeless people to different Evacuation Centers. Handicap International had sent a team to those centers in order to identify accessibility problems. In ‘Tent City 2’, in the Calaanan Area, we noticed that the nearby bridge over the river was unsafe. It was made out of coconut trees and was therefore very unstable. Nevertheless the people living in the camp used it on a daily basis to go the toilet, do the laundry and to find wood at the river. According to the residents, many accidents, especially involving elderly people, happened on that bridge. Many of these accidents resulted in bruises, wounds and sprains. On the day following Handicap International’s meeting with the camp manager, seven community volunteers started works on the bridge. Today, between 50 and 100 persons a day can cross it safely.”
“All these small successes were possible as a result of Handicap International’s lobbying towards other NGOs and its coordination with the Local Government Agencies”, explains Catherine. “In fact, we were able to encourage the Committee on Permanent Housing to provide ten slots and the Ecoville-Lumbia Management to accommodate more or less twenty vulnerable persons, in their respective permanent relocation sites. Not only did this coordination result in the provision of housing facilities, but we were able to enhance such an endeavor by encouraging the Committee to take into consideration accessibility of houses and prioritization of persons with disabilities on house assignment.”
“To ensure that vulnerable persons and their family members are provided with essential integrated assistance, the team in the coming months will strive to expand its presence by working with the local government, school institutions, and other stakeholders through the delivery of disability orientations, trainings, and psychosocial activity supports.”
“Handicap International will also set-up Disability and Vulnerability Focal Point (DVFP) in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan and surrounding areas, to ensure the delivery of disability services such as information, provision of assistive and adaptive devices and psychosocial support. We also want to make sure that vulnerable persons are well prepared and now how to behave in future disaster situations”, explains Catherine.