UMCOR Philippines Director Ciony Ayo-Eduarte with children in eastern Mindanao, Philippines, soon after Typhoon Bopha. UMCOR is a member of the ACT Alliance.
Paul Jeffrey/ACT Alliance

By David Tereshchuk* 

January 14, 2013—A month after the deadly Typhoon Bopha slammed into the Philippines, 14,000 residents of the country’s southern islands are sheltering in evacuation centers. Almost a million are staying in the ruins of their homes, or lodging with relatives, friends or neighbors – or simply “camping” out in the open.

Bopha, known locally as Pablo, is reported to have killed more than a thousand people, and there are still 800 listed as missing.

Parts of Mindanao Island were especially hard hit, for the second time within a year—atypical for this normally typhoon-free stretch of the archipelago. But lessons learned from the earlier Tropical Storm Washi (locally named Sendong) of December 2011 did help to reduce the impact of Bopha—and probably saved many lives.

Along with partner organizations such as ACT Alliance, and in common with other aid agencies, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, UMCOR, spent much of 2012 working alongside local communities to emphasize education and training in disaster risk reduction.

UMCOR Philippines’ Director Ciony Ayo-Eduarte was onsite in Iligan City on Mindanao the day after the typhoon struck, and UMCOR was able to join with local partners BALSA Mindanao, a Mindanao-wide church network, and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (a fellow member of ACT), to distribute food packages to residents whose homes suffered from massive flooding—but who, at least, were still alive.

Iligan had been especially ravaged by Washi, which killed more than 1,200 people. But this time around, with Bopha, vulnerable areas of the city and adjoining areas were successfully evacuated ahead of the typhoon making landfall. UMCOR was able to provide food supplies for some 40 families in an Iligan riverbank community as they returned to clean up their homes, which had flooded in their absence. UMCOR bought the food; a Roman Catholic charity, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, packaged it; and BALSA Mindanao delivered it.

Ayo-Eduarte makes it clear that while UMCOR will determinedly fill in gaps of provision with food and other emergency supplies, it will also ensure that disaster risk reduction continues to be a high priority among communities across all of the Philippines.

“We want to be proactive and not just react, so capacity-building among the people is the focus of our humanitarian response,” she said.

Your gift to Philippines Emergency, UMCOR Advance #240235 will bring relief to the typhoon-battered communities of Mindanao and elsewhere, and ensure preparations are made to minimize the effect of future disasters.

*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media analyst and a regular contributor

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