Lawaan is a coastal fifth class municipality in Eastern Samar. As part of Lawaan Municipality, Guinob-an Barangay (village), with a population of 1.123 individuals, is one of the villages hardest hit by the Typhoon Haiyan on November 8, 2013. Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund (ASB) Indonesia & Philippines through partnership with Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) is currently implementing Community Resilience Program in the barangay. Through the project, which is fully supported by Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH), CDP met Ms. Eva Lozada, a survivor of the storm. Eva is a village health worker. She also sells daily needs and ready-to-wear clothes in a small stall in front of her house. Her husband works as a tricycle driver, and their income goes into raising their nine children. Eva has lived in Guinob-an for nineteen years. She said, in those nineteen years, she has never experienced a disaster like Haiyan.
An average of twenty typhoons enter the Philippines every year, nine or ten of which make landfall. Because of this, the people of Lawaan are used to tropical storms, and this complacency is why many of the people in Guinob-an were unprepared for the severity of Haiyan. Eva describes the experience as “terrifying in a way that cannot be understood”. This experience motivated her to learn more about disaster risk reduction (DRR). Guinob-an Barangay office recorded that there were many organisations which came to conduct DRR related activities, but all of them focusing on village officials’ capacity. There were very limited opportunities for Eva and other ‘ordinary’ community members to take part and involve in DRR activity. Disability-inclusive DRR (DiDRR) project implemented by CDP was the first project in the village which included the participation of all community members, including persons with disability.
The community-based approach which requires active participation of the community also turned to help shift the perspective of DRR practices. As Eva stated, the project has made her realize that responsibility for the community does not rest on the village officials alone. For the first time, people who are not part of village council are engaged and encouraged to participate in the assessment and planning. “I will never forget making the village hazard map,” said Eva referring to the hazard and resource map made by the collaboration of community and village officials. “It was difficult to make and gave us headaches, but I enjoyed it,” she added. Eva also stated that she has learned many things about disaster preparedness and passed DRR related information to her family and community. Many households now have emergency bag in preparation for any disaster.
Through the project, Guinob-an Village also learned valuable knowledge on the importance of involving persons with disability in village activities. Eva added, prior to the project implementation, persons with disability in the community were given very little attention. However, the project allows community to learn more about the rights and needs of persons with disability and how to invite them to participate. Persons with disability were actively involved in various community workshops. They even took on roles as group leaders and presented group outputs. Representatives of persons with disability are also taking part in village level DRR committee.
The empowerment of a community begins with the direct engagement of its community members. Through the project, community of Guinob-an Village were made aware of the hazards in their area and the strengths and weaknesses of their village. They were also made aware that all community members whether women, elderly, children, or persons with disability are all stakeholders of the community and therefore have the right to take part in the planning and preparation process, especially related to DRR. Haiyan has severely affected Guinob-an Village, but now they are ready to take the leap and rise higher. (CDP Team/edit: Rizma Kristiana, Melina Margaretha)
Photo credit: Michael De Vera