The Philippines: Coordination in a Disaster
ARTICLE: THIS APPEARED IN THE REDR AUSTRALIA NEWSLETTER
In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, Sutapa Kabir Howlader found herself faced with a community which had lost millions of homes, and thousands of lives. As an Interagency Coordinator for Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP), and Protection against Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA), Sutapa was responsible for giving a voice to the people afflicted by the tropical storms.
The aim of AAP is to ensure that community feedback and accountability mechanisms are integrated into future policies and planning. The importance of facilitating a dialogue between the people affected by a disaster and the organisations assisting them is vital to ensure that all decisions and policies made are properly informed.
While this regards actively seeking out feedback to improve humanitarian policy and practice, Sutapa also sought out breaches in these areas, such as violations, physical and psychological abuse.
By allowing the most marginalised and unrepresented voices to participate and have influence on how they are assisted, it not only improves humanitarian efficiency but also reasserts a basic human dignity to people a role by involving them in dialogue and planning.
To garner thorough community feedback, Sutapa spent a lot of time on the move during her 4-month deployment in the Philippines – working across Manilla, Roxas, Tacloban, Cebu, Cotabato, Zamboagna and Iloilo.
Sutapa says that while the humanitarian response in the Philippines is considered officially complete, many decentralised clusters of humanitarians still exist in “working groups”. The current work being done by these groups predominately involves preparing the Philippine government and their disaster capacity for future tropical storms.
When Typhoon Glenda ripped through the Philippines in July, it allowed cluster groups to see firsthand how the response mechanisms they’d established faced with a new disaster. Overall the Philippines were better prepared for the typhoon, says Sutapa, with evacuation procedures greatly reducing the amount of potential causalities.
However in less developed areas, such as where Typhoon Haiyan hit last November, Sutapa highlighted that even a low-risk storm would cause widespread destruction to its weakened infrastructure. This is primarily because the humanitarian response in these areas is not complete, with many people still living in evacuation shelters of poor standards.