By Samira Gutoc
As a volunteer in humanitarian responses for calamities such as Sendong and Yolanda, as well as conflicts such as Zamboanga and Marawi, I see the valuable need for stakeholder collaboration in disaster response. We can never be ready without learning lessons from the past.
As early as 2011, we attended the Mindanao Summit on Disaster Risk Reduction and Geo-hazard Awareness in Cagayan de Oro which crafted valuable insights for today . The declaration acknowledged that mitigation and adaptation measures by all sectors and levels of government have been “inadequately implemented and weakly coordinated resulting in inefficient use of resources and lack of accountability” but also noted that most communities are “resilient and respond to disasters on their own, through self-help measures and reliance on their own capacities, which however are inadequate in the face of major disasters.”
In actual evacuation response, we see the following notes as vital.
Lesson 1. Information systems must be put in place to evacuate people to safety, deliver goods, announce advisories , among others and monitor, track down progress. Cascading information should use multi-media and community platforms even megaphones and hotlines . Use vernacular language.
Lesson 2. Synchronized and efficient responses require a joint platform among citizens and government even the private sector. Interventions on sanitation, health, water, missing and dead etc must be clustered. Action centres must be accessible. They must have posts within evacuation centres.
Lesson 3. Volunteers should be welcomed, provided identification and recognition. Their safety too should be guaranteed.
Lesson 4. Camp management shouldn’t just be about responding to incidents, the personnel should proactively monitor especially the vulnerables i.e. newborn etc and conduct health education drives and drills.
Lesson 5. Profile the needs of evacuees so that donors can be advised what are necessary. Canned goods may actually cause negative repercussions i.e. allergies , rashes if it is the food for months. Evacuees are not just found in camps but in homes too. They also need aid.
Lesson 6. Localized responses by indigenous , homegrown leaders and groups who may not have SEC registration should be recognised. They know the community situation better and can efficiently respond to the evacuees needs.
Lesson 7. Do not forget to give humanitarian workers the needed rest. They too need mental health. They would need stress debriefing.
As there is yet no Department on Disaster Management, it is worthy to note under Institutional Mechanisms, the Mindanao Declaration wants incident command systems to be institutionalized at all levels, that there should be an LGU (local government unit) rating system for disaster response and accountability, that adequate early warning systems be made at all levels using “appropriate local indigenous and modern communication systems and technology, including 3-digit phone numbers with back-up systems.
I fear for Taal’s victims and the place’s future with continuing eruptions predicted. We cannot be complacent. We musta face head-on the needs for ambulances, fire-prevention and animal protection etc.
We ask all as we kneel.. To include Taal victims, ask Mercy, urge not to have a big bang or another eruption, as we gathered at UP Diliman Church Saturday for 2020, Launch of the Year of interfaith dialogue by the Diocese, echoing the Vatican call. We face disaster together and act together was our call to the Bishop of Cubao, parish and protestant and islamic leaders.
A shout-out to all the kindness and courage shown by all, #WeAreOneInCrisis…