Preparation Saves Families From Typhoon Bopha

By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines

woman with emergency food stocks

ChildFund’s local partner pre-positioned goods and supplies in preparation for Typhoon Bopha.

Rice, biscuits, canned goods and bottled water sold briskly at the local supermarket in Malita, Philippines, as Typhoon Bopha approached the islands in early December. Food supplies would have to last days, possibly weeks. This, at least, is what panic-buyers reasoned as they crowded the store. Many families could not store much, however, as they would need to haul all their essentials to designated evacuation centers. But time was on their side, as authorities had called for families to evacuate two full days before the typhoon would strike on Dec. 4.

children crossing footbridge

This suspension footbridge spans a gap left by typhoon Washi in December 2011. Vehicles are pulled across on a raft, one-at-a-time, and cargo can be hauled across via a basket and pulley. This stopgap measure endured Typhoon Bopha.

Malita is a town in Davao Oriental, on the eastern seaboard of Mindanao Island in the southern Philippines. No strangers to the tempests that the Pacific Ocean would occasionally send them, the residents of Malita fully understood their vulnerability to typhoons, as well as the flooding and landslides often found in their wake. A 2011 typhoon, Washi, which wreaked considerable harm, was their most recent reminder of this danger, at least until Typhoon Pablo, the local name for Bopha.

The storm was forecast to cross right over northern Mindanao and past the western Visayas island group. Residents in Malita braced for the worst, supported by ChildFund and other humanitarian and government agencies that had helped them create emergency response plans. These efforts toward preparedness saved lives. Early warning systems, successful evacuations and storm shelters all helped ensure that as many people as possible were able to protect themselves from harm.

bridge after flood

ChildFund assessment teams verified that children in Mindanao weathered Typhoon Bopha safely.

ChildFund has been working in Malita for 28 years now and deeply understands the local community’s geographical risks. ChildFund’s local partner organization is staffed almost entirely by former sponsored children who grew up there. Partner organization manager Maribel says, “The Malita River makes the community vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Malita is also vulnerable to tsunamis from the Pacific.”

These risk factors are why ChildFund has been working with local authorities to improve disaster preparedness. ChildFund supports and complements government programs, directing efforts and resources toward supporting these measures. ChildFund’s youth association in Malita also joined a local group associated with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council. There they were trained in first aid, evacuation plans, water safety and rescue. Parents of sponsored children also signed up at the barangay (village) office to assist with distributing relief supplies.

Thelma Oros, a disaster risk reduction management (DRRM) officer for Malita, says the local disaster plan is strong. “Residents of coastal communities evacuated early enough, and there was sufficient pre-positioning of food packs and medicines,” she says.

Typhoon Pablo did strike hard on Dec. 4, leaving more than 1,000 dead, 800 still missing and tens of thousands homeless, mostly in the Surigao and Compostela Valley provinces. In Malita, the conditions were not as treacherous as predicted.

“Half of ChildFund’s 26 local partners stood either directly or adjacent to the path of Typhoon Pablo, but most made it through without loss, damage or injury,” ChildFund program officer Erwin Galido says. “They prepared and they braced, but I suppose the least consolation we can draw, after surveying the damage Typhoon Pablo caused in northern Mindanao, is that our communities and partners have been spared.

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