What did the UN do for PH? Disaster response, health programs, and more

Jodesz Gavilan
What did the UN do for PH? Disaster response, health programs, and more
The Philippines has been a beneficiary of different United Nations programs for many years, especially after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan)

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Sunday, August 21, hit the United Nations (UN) for allegedly interfering in the “internal affairs” of the Philippines.

The statement, delivered during one of the past-midnight press conferences in Davao City, was a reaction to a possible investigation of the UN expert on the alleged extrajudicial killings in the war on drugs.

Duterte demanded a debate with the UN special rapporteur on summary executions, Agnes Callamard. Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo earlier dared her to come to the Philippines to see that the administration is not involved in extrajudicial killings.

Also visibly angered by the recent statements of UN experts on his war on drugs, which he earlier described as a “stupid proposition”, Duterte contemplated “leaving” the UN. He added that the Philippines does not really benefit from the world body.

Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr, however, clarified on Monday, August 22, that the country is “certainly not leaving the UN.”

The Philippines is one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations.

On June 10, 1942, it became the 28th country to sign the UN Declaration, the basis of the UN Charter. Filipino statesman Carlos P. Romulo eventually became the first Asian president during the 4th UN General Assembly. Over 700 Filipinos are now working for the UN. (READ: The Philippines’ role in the United Nations)

But did the Philippines not really benefit from its more than 70 years of being a UN member-state? Short answer is no. Rappler lists what the UN and members of its Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) have so far contributed to the country.

Food security

According to a recent Social Weather Stations survey, 15.2% or an estimated 3.4 million Filipino families experienced involuntary hunger during the second quarter of 2016. Meanwhile, the 2015 Global Food Security Index (GFSI) ranks the Philippines 72nd out of 109 countries when it comes to food security. (INFOGRAPHIC: PH hunger in numbers)

UN agencies such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) have contributed a lot in turning around the current food insecurity situation in the Philippines. 

WFP, for its part, implemented various projects focusing on solving malnutrition across many areas in the country while working closely with government agencies such as the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

For example, it has provided nutritious meals to children aged 6 to 59 months, pregnant and nursing women, and livelihood programs for those affected by disasters and conflict. More than 65,000 school-age children located in Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte, and Lanao del Sur have benefited from WFP’s nutrition interventions. 

WFP also paved the way for new technology, in partnership with FNRI, that seeks to improve the health of children. Among these innovations is a special micronutrient powder and locally-produced fortified food for children. (READ: How local crops can end malnutrition)

FAO, meanwhile, focuses on improving the lives of Filipino farmers who belong to the poorest sector in the Philippines. 

Its continuous support for the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (SARC-TSARRD) project helped improve the livelihood of more than 4 million farmers from least developed rural households across the Philippines.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the poorest region in the Philippines, FAO supported areas affected by conflict by implementing projects which seek to rehabilitate agriculture and fisheries-based livelihoods, among others. The projects reportedly amount to more than $3 million (P139 million).

Climate change and disaster risk reduction

The Philippines is one of the signatories of the climate change deal tackled during the COP21 in Paris, France. The country pledged to reduce emissions to 70% by 2030.

The relationship of the UN and the Philippines is not one-sided as the country also receives grants for projects related to climate change mitigation and disaster risk reduction. 

For example, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with the Australian government, contributed P172 million ($3.9 million) to improve disaster risk reduction and management through the Resilience and Preparedness Towards Inclusiveness Development (RAPID) program in typhoon-affected areas.

RAPID Programme is implemented in 12 local government units (LGUs) along the coastline of Eastern Visayas.

Disaster response and recovery 

Perhaps the presence and impact of the UN in the Philippines was most visible in the aftermath of one of the strongest and most destructive typhoons to hit the Philippines, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). 

It activated its cluster system composed of humanitarian organizations, both UN and non-UN, to work on the restoration of “health, shelter, nutrition, and economy activity.”

Meanwhile, several countries – also UN member-states – and non-governmental organizations coursed their donation through the UN Strategic Response Plan. 

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the total funding given to the Philippines after the super typhoon reached $469 million (P21.8 billion). 

The donations funded several projects in Yolanda-affected areas for victims such as rehabilitation and livelihood programs, among others.


The Philippines greatly benefits from The Global Fund, an international financing organization in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Although not part of the UN family, its establishment in early 2002 was initiated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

As of August 2016, the Global Fund has disbursed a total of $290,877,273 (P13.4 billion) for projects related to the 3 diseases in the country: $34,137,182 (P1.5 billion) for HIV/AIDS, $170,084,972 (P7.9 billion) for tuberculosis, and $86,655,119 (P4 billion) for malaria.

The funding resulted in 13,000 people suffering from HIV/AIDS being currently put on antiretroviral therapy, 427,000 new smear-positive TB cases detected and treated, and 8,240,000 insecticide-treated nets against malaria distributed.

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), meanwhile, has addressed infant and maternal mortality in the Philippines in recent years by increasing the number of deliveries attended to by skilled birth attendants in equally safe facilities. 

The rallying support of UNICEF behind improving the lives of children and mothers in the country resulted in an increase in PhilHealth-accredited health facilities and rural/barangay health units with birthing facilities in vulnerable areas such as Sarangani and Eastern Samar, among others.

UNICEF also supports the efforts of the DOH when it comes to vaccine preventable diseases. It provided assistance in high-risk areas in Mindanao and the Cordillera regions to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus. 


Aside from health, UNICEF also supports the government’s Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) which promotes universal kindergarten. 

The programs, implemented in areas suffering from poverty, conflict, or natural disasters, resulted in increased participation of 3- to 5-year-old children in Mountain Province, Masbate, Eastern Samar, Northern Samar, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Davao City, Maguindanao, and Manila. 

At least 9,000 school children in conflict-affected areas in the ARMM have also attended ECCD programs and facilities.

Aside from kindergarten schools, UNICEF also established a network of child-friendly models in 5,300 primary schools and 61 high schools. It also developed various tools to help teachers conduct child-friendly school practices.

As a policy consultant, UNICEF also provided inputs in the drafting of various education-focused policies drafted by the Department of Education (DepEd). 

Peace and security

The Philippines got a boost in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) conflict with the help of a UN policy. The country asked the arbitral tribunal to uphold the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which grants exclusive rights to explore, exploit, and develop maritime features 200 nautical miles from its baselines. (TIMELINE: The Philippines-China maritime dispute)

In fact, the ruling on the historic case the Philippines won against China cited UNCLOS. (TEXT: Summary of ruling on Philippines-China case)

After the clarification about Duterte’s announcement on leaving the world body was made by one of his Cabinet secretaries, the Philippines can expect to continue reaping the benefits of membership in the United Nations. – Rappler.com

$1 = P47

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.