Fund for .5-M Sendong victims needs P1-B more

Voltaire Tupaz
Despite the global economic crisis, there is optimism that enough funds can be generated

MANILA, Philippines – The unmet requirements for humanitarian assistance for at least 300,000 people affected by typhoon Sendong have reached nearly a billion pesos ($39-M).

This was revealed by the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for the Philippines Jacqui Badcock during the launch of another round of emergency appeal for financial support to assist typhoon victims in the Northern Mindanao region.

The amount to be raised until June 2012 increased by P434-M ($10.6-M) from the previous requirement after the government and aid agencies revised their joint humanitarian action plan.

Endorsed by the government, the humanitarian package will roll out 48 projects in 13 key sectors, submitted by 10 UN agencies and 13 non-governmental organizations.

The immediate priorities of the life-saving assistance include shelter, food, water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, medical and psycho-social services, restoration of infrastructure, debris clearance and livelihood.

“Many lives have been saved through our interventions to date but unless this assistance is sustained and adequate shelter solutions are provided to all displaced, many will remain vulnerable and unable to sustain themselves and their families,” Badcock said, urging donors to “back the new response plan and the affected communities of Mindanao generously.”

Typhoon Sendong ravaged Northern Mindanao in December 2011, affecting the livelihoods of about 625,000 people, displacing more than 550,000 residents, damaging nearly 48,000 houses. It left 1,470 people dead, 1,074 missing and nearly 2,020 injured.
 
Generosity amid crisis

Despite the global economic crisis, Badcock remained optimistic that funds can be generated because the action plan which formed the basis of the revised appeal is well-assessed and thoroughly researched.

“I think the international community remains generous when it comes to humanitarian responses,” said Badcock, who is also the UN Resident Coordinator for the Philippines.

Badcock said the United States, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada have already responded, and other smaller countries like Finland have started to express interest.

But the UN official would also like to see the appeal being examined not just by the traditional donors, but also by the private sector.

The international community has provided only about $393,000 (P9.6 million) or 25% of the much-needed funding so far. The amount includes P123-M ($3-M) disbursed from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

Data from the Department of Foreign Affairs show that outside the appeal, foreign governments, Filipinos abroad, businesses and other individuals have contributed about P918.4-M ($22.4-M) in support of government-led relief operations.

In addition, the Philippine National Red Cross (PRC) has raised P134.4-M ($3.1-M) in cash donations as of January 2012.

Accountability

Addressing concerns over the possible misuse of funds poured in Mindanao, Badcock gave assurances that the partnership between UN agencies and the government is more efficient now.

“We are a lot more systematic. Your foreign ministry documents all bilateral donations coming in. We as a humanitarian country team documents all the assistance that come through multilaterals and through NGOs.”

Meanwhile, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Undersecretary Parisya Taradji said that the agency has “established a mechanism that will allow us to closely and regularly monitor the utilization of the resources of the government.”

According to Taradji, project implementation is governed by memoranda of agreement that provide for the “monitoring of the utilization of funds so that DSWD and the local government units can work together in making sure that funds are appreciated at the level of beneficiaries.”

Badcock added that at the local level, the mayors have their own mechanisms for tracking funds.

“In Iligan, the mayor referred to some online tools where the community can see for themselves the resources that are being put into various activities.”

Media scrutiny

Pressed by media whether the reason for the slow humanitarian response for Mindanao is limited coverage, Badcock said it’s not media’s fault but stressed they have an important role to play in amplifying the call for support.

The UN official also said the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction is planning to conduct capacity-building workshops for journalists covering disaster.

In a conference on reporting on violence and emergencies held in 2011, Patrick Fuller, Asia Pacific communications manager of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it is important for the media and aid agencies to work together despite differences in interests and agenda because statistics indicate that media coverage results in more aid delivered to each disaster victim.

Citing an example on how media can help mobilize humanitarian support, Fuller said 250 minutes of coverage resulted in $1,241 dollars for each Asian tsunami victim as compared to only $53 in Somalia.

Fuller added that despite their differences, the media and aid agencies can nurture a beneficial relationship. While journalists who cover disasters scrutinize the effectiveness of aid, agencies are more interested in accountability — how aid is distributed and used. – Rappler.com