Local NGOs lead typhoon relief efforts in Philippines' Mindanao | Asia Pacific

Local NGOs lead typhoon relief efforts in Philippines' Mindanao

Local NGOs lead typhoon relief efforts in Philippines' Mindanao

Updated 11 December 2012, 11:36 AEST

The United Nations launched a 65 million dollar global aid appeal for the Philippines, for an estimated five million people affected by last week's typhoon.

Local NGOs are helping government and international agencies plan aid deliveries, through their extensive network.

Typhoon Bopha hit the southern Philippines last Tuesday, killing over 600 people, with another 800 listed as missing.

The Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks is an umbrella body for twelve local groups.

Its chairperson Patricia Sarenas spoke to Asia Pacific from Davao City.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Patricia Sarenas, chairperson, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks

SARENAS: People in the affected communities, they badly need right now, relief packages, as in food and water and medical assistance, because there're many who've been injured in landslides and fallen trees and houses. That's still the immediate need for food and water and medicine, and shelter. Shelter is also a very big concern because most of the houses were damaged or destroyed, they're no longer standing, or if they're standing, they won't have roofs.

LAM: And we've read reports of locals reduced to holding placards by the roadside, pleading for help. Are there still many people who've not managed to get aid?

SARENAS: Ya, the call really was for better coordination among the (relief) groups that are providing support. Because the DSW division (district welfare division) the social welfare and development department, should really be on top of everything. But the problem is there are other groups that come in with food packs and they don't coordinate with the local emergency centres, so that you have a situation where people would be scrambling for the relief goods that're brought by people who're not coordinated by the Department of Social Welfare. I would agree, that there could be a very palpable lack of supplies reaching the survivors, even seven days from the time it (the typhoon) hit.

LAM: And to what extent has that to do with the fact that many of these areas are remote regions - has the geography got a lot to do with it?

SARENAS: Yes, yes, in fact, there're still many parts of the hardest-hit areas are unreachable by land. Some municipalities have been cut off both ways, both north and south. So they're pretty isolated. But they have reached by the sea - the boats were provided by the government.

LAM: The United Nations has launched a global appeal, but I imagine aid might not be immediately forthcoming. So when do you expect the UN appeal to make any kind of impact on the situation in Mindanao?

SARENAS: Actually, the UN bodies that are here are already providing assistance depending on the kind of mandate they have. Also, there're many international NGOs also working in Mindanao, and they also provide not just food and water, but also medicines and tents, which are very necessary to provide shelter. But still, there's insufficient stocks of emergency shelter for the affected families.

LAM: Have you been consulted on local needs? What is the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks doing, in relation to the UN?

SARENAS: Actually, Sen, most of the municipalities that have been hit, are places where we have farmer groups, official groups, women and other organised groups, people's organisations, and they are victims themselves. The Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks, is made up of twelve networks. But on the ground, our twelve networks have close to 500 members all over Mindanao. The affected areas, we have members that live there, so they're very familiar with the situation on the ground. It's sad but many of our partners were also affected, but what keeps us going is the fact that some of them have already started helping, even in the identification of where relief should go, and help in the packing and distribution of goods, even if they themselves are victims.

LAM: And Pat Sarenas, this is also a very poor region of the Philippines, a largely rural area .. what do you think is needed to restore these communities in terms of work and livelihood?

SARENAS: It's very hard to give a general answer to your question, Sen. Because some areas have to reconsider habitation, you know what I mean?

LAM: To be re-located, do you mean?

SARENAS: Yes, because the municipality should have a map, that shows which areas are vulnerable to landslides, which are vulnerable to flooding, the maps are available.

LAM: So it may be that thousands of these displaced people may not be able to return to their original communities?

SARENAS: That's right, yes. It's going to be a big debate. Because there're areas that are in flood-prone or landslide-prone areas, so the municipal government may not want people to return there. So it's a big debate, because some of these lands are titled lands, or owned by the farmers. We're not just looking at the tenure of the land. Once we move out of relief and recovery phase, then civil society organisations will be very much involved in the planning for the rehabilitation of the areas.

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