UNHCR plays role in Typhoon Bopha affected areas

UNHCR had provided protection kits that include plastic sheets which provided the homeless families with temporary, but safe, dwelling as they slowly rebuild their houses.

“We did not expect that this will happen,” expresses Zulieta Deopracio, one of the survivors of Typhoon Pablo (Bopha), the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines on 4 December 2013.

Zulieta and her family pre-emptively evacuated a day before the typhoon made its landfall in eastern Mindanao, Philippines. They went to their farm house in the hinterland, but the strong winds did not spare it. “We were so scared. I have not seen such strong winds in my entire life. Good thing we were able to escape,” shares the mother of three.

As the family’s breadwinner, one can only imagine Zulieta’s distraught when she saw her house and farm damaged by the typhoon. “I really need your help to rebuild my house,” laments Zulieta.

“I really need your help to rebuild my house.”

Monkayo municipality is one of the severely hit municipalities in Compostela Valley province. At least 96% of the total population has been affected (90,971 out of 94,827 individuals). All 21 barangays almost wiped out where 50% of the displaced population (6,000 families out of 18,000 families) are now homeless. Zulieta is among those who struggled to stay at their damaged houses after the typhoon. She managed to salvage materials to build a makeshift shelter for her family. “I do not know if there are evacuation centers, that is why I just stayed here.” The power cut which has already been going on for weeks now compounded this problem on shelter and had put the safety of affected families at risk.

All 20 years of her life in Barangay Baylo of Monkayo, this is the first time she experienced such catastrophic typhoon. Zulieta’s community had been repeatedly affected by armed conflict between the government forces and the communist party. Displacement has become a vicious cycle for this community but the effect of Typhoon Pablo was hardly expected. Agricultural crops were rendered inutile paralyzing economic activity of the affected families and hindering their recovery. Residents expressed that it would take years to recover their coconut and banana plantations. Alternative income is not even an option as affected families like Zulieta do not have technical skills and financial resources to start with. This condition poses risk and increases the vulnerability of affected families to dwell on illegal sources of income such as small-scale mining that is detrimental to their safety.

UNHCR has felt the need of these affected families in Monkayo and neighboring municipalities in Compostela Valley province. That is why UNCHR, together with Protection Cluster members, was quick to respond. UNHCR had provided protection kits that include plastic sheets in Zulieta’s place on 10 December 2013. The plastic sheets provided the homeless families with temporary, but safe, dwelling as they slowly rebuild their houses.

It can be recalled that UNHCR is the only UN agency who helped these conflict-affected communities in the east since 2011. UNHCR recognizes the vulnerability of these communities against displacement due to long running insurgencies and natural disasters. Typhoon Pablo had just emphasized this need to respond to these fragile communities.

UNHCR continues to bring humanitarian assistance to these isolated and indigenous communities. It targets those communities in the provinces of Compostela, Davao Oriental, and Agusan del Sur who were weakened by years of conflict and now hit by the typhoon. Along with this provision of protection kits, is the protection monitoring and coordination meeting among Protection Cluster members to fully understand the extent of damage and identify the immediate and long-term needs of the affected population.