United Methodist Committee on Relief

Disaster Risk Reduction: Saving Lives through Empowerment

By Bella DiFilippo*

As the earth’s climate rises, dramatic changes occur. These changes almost always impact men, women, and children in the form of disasters. Some populations are at higher risk of experiencing disasters, causing such communities to be more vulnerable than others. Vulnerable communities often lack the proper resources or the knowledge of how to reduce the effects of devastating disasters.

Communities in the Philippines are some of those vulnerable populations. Due to its position along fault lines and tectonic plates in the Pacific, the Philippines is susceptible to earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions, and cyclones. Within the past decade, the Philippines has experienced at least eight major natural disasters, all of which have resulted in thousands of deaths and devastation to the country’s infrastructure and economy (Deutsche Welle). 

aftermath Philippines.jpgSurvivors of Typhoon Haiyan pick through debris piled up by the storm in Tacloban, Philippines looking for their lost possessions. PHOTO: MIKE DUBOSE

“Disaster risk reduction (DRR) is a process that seeks to alleviate human suffering through proactive and long-lasting ways,” said Yovanna Troansky, UMCOR’s program manager for Disaster Risk Reduction. “This process helps communities identify their vulnerabilities and the resources needed to address them and thereby reduce or mitigate the negative impacts of hazards.” As a key element of its objectives, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is dedicated to empowering communities to overcome their vulnerabilities through supporting DRR initiatives. 

2013-typhoon-Philippines-sign.jpgA sign that withstood the 195-mile-an-hour winds of Typhoon Haiyan  stands outside Tacloban City in the Philippines. PHOTO: APRIL GRACE G. MERCADO

In July 2016, UMCOR approved a grant for $177,752 to fund a DRR program in the Philippines. This program was implemented through one of UMCOR’s partners, Relief International, from July 2016 through April 2017. This program built resilience in vulnerable communities using various strategies that focused on disaster preparedness and evacuation tactics in Tacloban City. This project is part of a comprehensive initiative funded by UMCOR since 2014 that included the construction of eight evacuation shelters in the Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas and the development of community-based tools to manage the risk of disasters and respond to future catastrophic events.

Lilybeth Abelgas, 53, lives in Fatima Barangay in Tacloban City, Philippines. She is a councilor of her barangay (administrative division) and a survivor of Super Typhoon Yolanda, which hit Tacloban on November 11, 2013. (Yolanda was the local name for Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest typhoons on record.) She shared her story of transformation from fear to empowerment with Relief International.

Lilybeth Interview.jpg

Lilybeth shares her story of survival and what she has learned from Disaster Risk Reduction program. PHOTO: RELIEF INTERNATIONAL

Prior to Super Typhoon Haiyan, local government warnings for disasters were not taken seriously. Lilybeth says that if she had received training before the typhoon, their community would have been much more prepared. Her experience during Haiyan made her appreciate the results of the community-based project implemented by Relief International and supported by UMCOR.

Lilybeth said in an interview with Relief International: “Disaster Risk Reduction is important because without it, we wouldn’t know what to do. It is especially important for us in coastal areas to know what to do in times of earthquakes and typhoons. People would not panic. Through the training, I learned about CPR and other basic life-saving methods. We had community drills for earthquakes, typhoons, and evacuations, and we learned about creating contingency plans. It is important for us to know who is overseeing committees when there are disasters.” 

The Philippines 2.jpgA participant in the Disaster Risk Reduction training class presents to the attending group. PHOTO: RELIEF INTERNATIONAL

When you give to Advance #982450, you can help fund disaster-risk reduction initiatives that will help reduce the mortality rate, damage to infrastructure, and disruption of essential services in communities vulnerable to natural hazards. Please consider donating today.

Bella DiFilippo is Program Area Liaison from Communications for Global Ministries