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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2961

Before the Storm Hits

Bangkok, 30 March, (

For Lourdes Dilariarte of Pilar, Sorsogon Province of Bicol region, typhoon (Kammuri) Tisoy was yet another disaster bent on testing her resilience.

“This is the first time I ever experienced a storm like this,” says the 70-year-old. “The wind lasted for so long, and it rained the entire night.” Pointing to her thighs, she adds, “the flood was up to here.” Her village still shows the extent of destruction.

In early December 2019, Typhoon Kammuri, locally known as ‘Tisoy’ made landfall in Sorsogon in the Philippines. Along its path, 65,000 houses were destroyed, hundreds of thousands of families were left in need of help and without power for days.

WFP cash assistance in the Philippines helps communities prepare better and recover quicker

In the past, affected families had no other choice but to wait for assistance to arrive. This time however, the people of Pilar were ready. Residents like Lourdes had already received support from a UN agency well before the storm hit.

Two weeks before Tisoy, knowing the region was entering its peak flood season, WFP Philippines dispatched cash to 1,000 vulnerable households as part of its pilot on system known as “forecast-based financing”—it does what its name suggests, helping people prepare for shocks around the corner.

The communities were happy.

“The number one thing is food. And then preparing the house for the strong wind, tying things down with ropes. That’s what most of us do here,” says Rody Rodriguez, another resident who received cash support from the WFP.

Tisoy was the 20th storm to hit the Philippines in 2019.

Following its exit, support to local communities continued.

By acting early, WFP, together with the provincial and municipal governments, is helping vulnerable households prepare better and recover more quickly in the face of hazards.

Whether fighting COVID-19 or a natural disaster, emergency preparedness can save lives. Utilised correctly, it can also play a vital role in empowering some of the poorest communities of the world.

The province of Sorsogon was selected based on forecasts for the peak-flooding period in December 2019. Seasonal data predicted that the first week of December would be the most dangerous period and extreme weather patterns would trigger the type of floods that severely impact people’s lives and livelihoods.

Pay-outs of PHP2,300 (US$45) – 10 days’ worth of the minimum daily wage in the target area – were provided to at-risk local community members. This figure aligns with the national government’s guidelines for cash in emergencies. WFP had also set up a complaint-and-feedback mechanism to ensure the scheme was accountable to the affected population.

Counting the benefits

Officials say helping people cope with the looming disaster has many benefits.

Local people used the cash to buy 20 kilos of rice which the family could consume for 10 days, during and after the disaster.

“If we had not gotten the cash, we would spend our own meagre income to buy food or would have to rely for the assistance from local government units,” says Lourdes.

Receiving the assistance before the disaster enabled people to prepare and plan better for the typhoon, easing the need for assistance after the event.

“Based on our experience, no one gives assistance before a calamity. Usually that happens after a calamity or event,” says Arnol Lista, Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer. “With the money, people were able to buy food, matches, blankets, move to a safer location, strengthen their houses before the storm, and fix the damages after the storm.”

Forecast-based financing sets up an automatic system that triggers and funds preparedness actions before a disaster strikes.

A key element of FbF is that the allocation of resources is agreed in advance as a form of partnership between donors and stakeholders. “FbF is envisioned to contribute in building community resilience alongside climate-smart disaster risk reduction and response efforts,” says Douglas Broderick, Country Director a.i. of the WFP Philippines.

Currently, 10 provinces in the Philippines have set plans to institutionalise the FbF approach in their respective areas. WFP is also supporting the institutionalisation of the FbF approach at the national level by supporting the Government of Philippines on capacity-strengthening.

Besides the Philippines, WFP’s forecast-based financing is also being implemented in Bangladesh and Nepal in Asia and the Pacific—the most disaster-prone region in the world.

- Asian Tribune -

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