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SOUTHERN LEYTE: As Typhoon Bopha, known locally as Pablo, ravaged parts of Mindanao, communities in Southern Leyte – a sparsely populated province where Plan has worked extensively on disaster risk reduction (DRR) projects – were on high alert for possible impact. While the area was spared the worst of Bopha's wrath, the heightened level of preparedness of nearly everyone in the area bore testament to years of hard work.
“We do lots of DRR activities. The community is empowered, even the little children who have learnt how to evacuate. It's converted the vulnerable to the capable,” said Servando Tio Jr, municipal DRR officer of San Francisco in Southern Leyte.
“We've been working with Plan for a long time through a formal relationship. Plan supplements what we have, because our capacity – technical and monetary – are limited. Plan provides assistance, meeting us halfway,” he added.
Keeping an eye out
The level of preparedness across the province was evident as evacuation centres were set up in all communities and local emergency response teams geared themselves up to respond as needed. Plan Philippines set up a command centre at the Liloan municipal town hall to monitor everything closely in case the situation escalated and required an emergency response.
“We are more prepared now because before we didn't have an identified evacuation centre so people would be worried about finding a place to go,” said Meriam Laga, a Plan volunteer who was evacuated from her home in Manglit village to a temporary shelter at a nearby school due to fear of landslides – one of the most prominent natural disasters across the province.
Also at the shelter, Marilyn Laga added, “We knew to evacuate this time because it was announced by the baranguay captain, who had a megaphone and went round the houses. I was afraid that we might get hit by coconut trees. It was a bit difficult because of the location because the road is up and we live down. We had to walk up 240 steps to the highway. It was very slippery.”
Safe, not sorry
While the impending threat of a powerful typhoon was unnerving, for the children of the province, most felt prepared because they'd learnt about disasters at school and in their communities.
“We learnt about evacuating from school. What I'm most worried about is that landslides will happen. I never experienced them before, but I heard a lot about them happening when a lot of people died,” said 15-year-old Fatima, who moved to an evacuation centre set up at a school in Poblacio, Liloan municipality.
“We felt strong winds and the house had started swaying from side to side. We live right on the shore and the water was rising there. The bathroom was damaged. I felt scared because the wind was so strong. We received information from the media about what to do.”
Plan has worked in the Philippines for more than 50 years and has extensive experience responding to natural disasters and other crises, deploying teams of technical experts to support the immediate delivery of clean drinking water, food, medical supplies, educational resources and psychosocial support. Plan is also recognised for its expertise in protecting emergency-affected children from abuse, exploitation, neglect and violence.
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