MANILA, Philippines – With the onset of the typhoon season and in observance of the National Disaster Consciousness Month this July, the National Youth Commission (NYC) called on Filipino youth to become advocates and champions for disaster risk reduction (DRR) and environmental protection.
Even before the start of the National Disaster Consciousness Month, incessant rains and thunderstorms have already flooded 18 towns in Maguindanao, affecting close to 20,000 families or 100,000 people from 133 barangays across the province. Over the past days, low-lying areas in Metro Manila also experienced flashfloods unleashed by the monsoon rains.
Despite the government’s efforts to fast track recovery of Yolanda-affected areas, thousands of vulnerable families are still living in tents or shanty settlements which can easily be wiped out by the next big storm – almost 8 months after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) struck the Visayas.
Prepare for the worst
“We are living in the age of the ‘New Normal’ when extreme weather events like Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo and Yolanda have become the norm as a consequence of climate change,” Sixto “Dingdong” Dantes III, NYC commissioner-at-large stressed.
He pointed out that Yolanda affected more than 16 million people in several regions, resulting into more than 6,000 deaths, and damage or destruction of 1.1 million houses, over 17,000 classrooms and 2,500 day care centers. Yolanda displaced some 4.1 million people, including 789,000 children.
Worse, reports about the rising number of child laborers and out-of-school youth (OSYs) in Yolanda-affected areas highlight the urgency of giving special attention to child and youth protection in the Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation program.
NYC has responded to the OSY problem by intensifying its Abot-Alam Program, which seeks to give OSYs equal opportunity to go back to school, be employed or, become entrepreneurs.
“We cannot stop natural hazards turbo-charged by climate change from happening but we can prevent them from developing into disasters”, Dantes added.
According to Dantes, “The key is disaster risk reduction and environmental protection. Everyone, particularly the Filipino youth, must always prepare for the worst and plan for the above normal.”
Youth as champions for DRR and environmental protection
The NYC said it believed that children and youth are not just a vulnerable group, but can play vital roles in their communities to prepare for future disasters.
There is no lack of success stories about youth groups acting as champions for DRR and environmental protection.
The Tanay Mountaineers youth arm, a Ten Accomplished Youth Organization (TAYO) 2013 winner, has been responding to victims of disasters not only in Tanay, Rizal but even in Quezon Province since Typhoon Ondoy (Ketsana) hit their town on 2009. The local government of Tanay has tapped the Tanay Mountaineers as the official disaster response team of the municipality.
Another TAYO 2013 Winner, the Hayag Youth Organization, carried out the “Langoy para sa Kaluwasan,” a Swim Camp, Disaster Preparedness and Open Water Safety Training for children and youth from impoverished communities in Ormoc City realizing that many youth do not know how to swim and water-safety skills are not taught to them in school. As a result, no drowning casualties were reported among youth participants at the height of Yolanda in Ormoc.
The Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) recently launched their Build Better Together Project, focusing on rehabilitation work in Yolanda-stricken areas in the Visayas.
Last month, student architects from different universities submitted their designs for climate-adaptive houses and schools in the Build Forward Competition sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and the DOST. The winning designs will be used in housing sites and school building projects in Tacloban.
Dantes explained, “Children and youth can act as advocates and champions – challenging notions of fatalism, educating their households, and making sure that culture of safety and preparedness is passed on to the next generation.”
The NYC and the Tanay Youth Mountaineers are part of the Project Agos partnership program. – Rappler.com
Be a Project Agos volunteer or partner and help report critcial information such as flooded areas, damaged roads, or people in need of rescue. The crowdsourced data can be used by disaster management agencies to mobilize response teams to affected areas.
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