Typhoon Haima: Being prepared saved lives

There is still a lot of work to do. We want to make every village in the Philippines #DisasterProof

27 October 2016

From afar, you can just see a line of colourful umbrellas dotted along a vast rice field with the mountains in the background. As you come closer, you can see more than 10 farmers, mostly women, barefoot and bending down as they plant rice while using the umbrellas to cover them from the heat of the sun.

They are women who have just braved a category five super typhoon.

In less than a week, farmers affected by Typhoon Haima, are back on their feet – planting rice, plowing their fields and drying the produce that they harvested days before Typhoon Haima made landfall. Disaster Risk Reduction and Manager of Isabela District official Edmund Guzman explains how the community has managed to recover so quickly:

 We conducted intensive preparations for Typhoon Haima. Two days before the typhoon, we did pre-emptive evacuation especially for those living along the coast facing the Pacific Ocean. We had pre-positioned goods in each municipality. Most of the farmers harvested their crops before the landfall as well.

Super Typhoon Haima was watched all over around the world with many comparing it to Typhoon Haiyan that killed thousands of people. Reports claimed that the diameter and eye of Typhoon Haima was twice the size of Typhoon Haiyan.

“We experienced heavy downpours and strong winds, stronger than Typhoon Megi but we were not caught by surprise. We were able to prepare for the Typhoon Haima unlike when Typhoon Megi hit us six years ago,” says Mayor Arnold Bautista of Tumauini in Isabela District.

A day after Typhoon Haima’s landfall, families have returned to their houses from the evacuation centers. They are already busy checking on their farms and houses and mending what was damaged.

According to Guzman, “There was low casualties and devastation because of the preparation measures we did. We have the Sierra Madre mountain ranges close to us. The mountain ranges shielded us, minimising the impact of Typhoon Haima.”

To understand the extent of damage caused by Typhoon Haima, child rights and humanitarian organisation, Plan International, undertook rapid assessments in Cagayan and Isabela districts. Life-saving shelter and infant and hygiene kits were on standby, ready for distribution if or when they are needed. The assessment was jointly conducted through the Philippine Network of NGO Network (PINGON) of which Plan International is a member.

Plan International commends the communities and the government for their disaster preparedness measures and for quickly mobilizing their resources to respond to the needs of those affected by the typhoon.

“The change of behavior in terms of disaster preparedness has saved a lot of lives and caused less destruction,” commented Dennis O’Brien, Plan International County Director.

The efforts of Cagayan and Isabela provinces in terms of preparedness and resiliency are good models to follow. We have to learn from them and adapt the good practices they followed during Typhoon Haima and previous disasters.

The Philippine government has stated their ability to respond to the immediate needs of people affected by Typhoon Haima. “Plan International stands with the Philippine government and is on ready to provide support when necessary, says O’Brien.

haima emergency

For almost 20 years, Plan International worked with the communities in Isabela and Cagayan, focusing on child’s rights, sustainable agriculture, school construction and disaster preparedness. In 2010, Plan International responded to Typhoon Megi, one of the most disastrous typhoons to hit north Luzon, by providing life-saving kits to affected families. Following the disaster, Plan International constructed typhoon resistant school buildings in partnership with the Department of Education, facilitated teacher training on disaster preparedness and built health centers. We also developed programmes to protect biodiversity around the mountain range.

International development and humanitarian organisations like Plan International play a key role in strengthening the capacity of children, young people and their families living in disaster prone communities in north, central and south Philippines.

But there is still a lot of work to do. We want to make every village in the Philippines #DisasterProof