Women and girls in the Philippines are in need of your support.

  • Home
  • Featured Stories

Balay (House)

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Shelter

A Girl’s Story of Loss and Hope

After Typhoon Odette brought her family’s house down, Precious, her parents and siblings are now enjoying the warmth and comfort of their house that was built to resist natural hazards such as storms, typhoons, floods, and earthquakes.

Watch her story here: BalayniPrecious

Precious’ parents Barney and Eunice shared that in the past two months, their new house withstood the heavy rain and strong winds that the rainy season brought in. Their CGI roofing was nailed and braced securely and was able to hold out against the wind. Their marine plywood walls were also braced for the wind and its material protected them from the rain.

Since #TyphoonOdette flew their roof off and took their bamboo walls down, Eunice said that they have never felt safe and secure until they moved into their new house.

“It rained heavily last night but we were confident that we would be safe because of how sturdy our house is”, she added.

The family was sheltered in the latter’s mother’s house after the typhoon until CARE and National Rural Women Coalition (PKKK) came to their barangay to support affected families in their efforts to repair or rebuild their houses.

Through the Immediate and Comprehensive Response for Communities Affected by Typhoon Rai in the Philippines, they were able to access shelter repair kits. The barangay also recommended their family be assisted in repairing their house through mutual help or the bayanihan system. Volunteer carpenters and other members of the community helped in the repair.

This is usually done when some members of the community such as the elderly, the sick, and persons with disabilities are not able to repair or rebuild their houses on their own. Barney said that his epilepsy prevented him from doing the construction, hence, he was thankful that his community helped his family.

He and his wife are presently managing a small sari-sari store and internet vending business in their house. They will also be supported by the response through livelihood enhancement training and addition to capital.

This response is being implemented by a consortium of partners including CARE, PKKK, ACCORD Incorporated, Action Against Hunger Philippines, and Plan International Philippines with support from the EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid.

Communal gardens sprout up months after #OdettePH

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Featured Stories, Food & Nutrition, Latest News & Stories

Riza, 35, shows the vegetable seedlings that she and members of their group propagate in their nursery in Barangay Mahayahay, San Jose, Dinagat Island Province. Meanwhile, her 73-year-old mother, Matilde waters the plants in their communal garden where okra, string beans, peppers, squash, sweet potato, water spinach, and other vegetables are growing.

“We already harvested three times since we started the garden. It really helps especially at times when we don’t have enough money to buy food”, Riza shared.

She also said that they are growing their food using organic compost and fertilizers such as fermented fruit and plant juice which materials are sourced in their community.

Their members were trained in sustainable organic farming after Typhoon Rai (Odette) ruined their crops and stripped the garden soil barren.

Through the Immediate and Comprehensive Response for Communities Affected by Typhoon Rai (Odette), men and women members of their communities were organized and formed into mutual groups for reviving the former and engaging in alternative livelihoods.

Aside from their association’s dry goods stores, they decided to put up communal nurseries and gardens to ensure that food will always be on their table.

“After the typhoon, it was very difficult to find food. Now, when we harvest beans, we can store them both for seeds and food”, she added.

The Immediate and Comprehensive Response for Communities Affected by Typhoon Rai (Odette) is implemented jointly by CARE Philippines, ACCORD Incorporated, Action Against Hunger Philippines, National Rural Women Coalition (PKKK) and Plan International Philippines in Dinagat Islands, Palawan, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Negros Occidental, and Cebu, Philippines.

RISE Coco project to rehabilitate 700 hectares of 1,000 typhoon-affected coconut farmers in Bohol

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

Highlight of the activity is the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together towards the successful implementation of the project. From left: Mr. Gerardo F. Cuadrasal, Jr. , Municipal Administrator of Calape, Bohol representing  Hon. Mayor Julius Caesar F. Herrera; Hon. Mayor Diosdado Gementiza, Jr. of San Isidro, Bohol; Christopher Matthew Ilagan of Cargill; David Gazashvili of CARE Philippines and Mr. Brendan P. Trasmonte, Regional Manager III for Region VII, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA)

Manila, Philippines (September 26,  2022) — Nine months since Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) felled over three million coconut trees in the province of Bohol, Cargill Philippines partners with CARE Philippines, Cebu-Bohol Relief and Rehabilitation Center (CRRC), and the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to replant 100,000 coconut seedlings in devastated local communities through the RISE Coco (Recovery Intervention for Severely Affected Coconut Farming Communities of Bohol by Super Typhoon Odette) project. More than 10 million coconut trees were damaged in several areas nationwide and gravely affected farming families whose livelihood was dependent on producing copra.

farming families whose livelihood was dependent on producing copra.

The Bohol provincial PCA already pledged to initially replace felled trees with 500,000 dwarf variety seedlings in February. This variety takes three to four years to bear fruit compared to the hybrid variety which takes five years to yield. However, with no other means to provide for their families, farmers are already finding it difficult to bounce back while waiting for harvest. The available coconut seedlings were very limited and were allocated to only a few municipalities. To bridge this gap, coconut farmers supported by this project decided to establish their own community-based seed beds to propagate coconut seedlings for re-planting.

Through the RISE Coco Project, 1,000 coconut farming households in the municipalities of Calape, Catigbian, Loon, and San Isidro will be able to gradually recover and sustain their coconut farming livelihoods. The project focuses on replacing the damaged coconut trees, training the farmers on sustainable agriculture, providing alternative livelihoods while waiting for the coconut trees to bear fruit, and organizing the farmers into cooperatives to have better access to markets and corporate buyers.

The project was officially launched on September 15, 2022, at the Calape Forest Resort and was attended by almost 100 participants from the local government offices, PCA officials, Cargill, CARE, CRRC and farmer leaders in the province. As the first coconut disaster rehabilitation program in the province spearheaded by the private sector, the project is strongly supported by the provincial government of Bohol and the municipal mayors of the four covered municipalities. PCA, including its regional and provincial offices, also expressed commitment to provide technical assistance during the project implementation.

PCA Region 7 Manager Brendan Trasmonte acknowledged the critical and challenging role that the PCA will play in the success of the project as it needs quality seed nuts and seedlings and the technical knowledge of coconut farmers to sustain and expand their sources of income beyond coconut farming.   

This project partnership is anchored on a global agreement between Cargill and CARE International to work together to implement programs that would rehabilitate livelihoods impacted by disasters, support recovery and promote food security of affected farming communities.

“It’s our way of supporting the rehabilitation of the livelihoods of the coconut farmers of Bohol severely impacted by the climate-induced Supertyphoon Odette – the same coconut farmers who have been our reliable suppliers of copra over the years which we in turn crush at our General Santos City plant into world-class crude coconut oil,” said Cargill Philippines’ Corporate Affairs Director Christopher Matthew Ilagan.

Cargill’s Copra & Palm Origination Commercial Director, Jonathan Sumpaico added, “Cargill is committed to grow with the communities where we live and work.   The RISE Coco program, as part of our broader partnership with CARE Philippines, allows us to put that commitment into action by ensuring the farmers affected by the Supertyphoon produce sustainably grown copra and continue to benefit from responsible economic development as our partners.”

Meanwhile, CARE Philippines Country Director David Gazashvili sees the project as a way to develop the resiliency of coconut farming communities against the drastic effects of climate change.

“Farmers will be trained to increase their capacities to better prepare for disasters alongside local government structures. This implies ensuring the availability of food for their family and community and ability to cope and bounce back through other sources of income and immediate government support”, he said.

The RISE Coco project is led by CARE Philippines and is being implemented with CRRC with active participation from Cargill employees across all project areas.

Symbolic turnover of coconut seedlings to the farmer leaders of the coconut farming communities in the selected project sites.

# # #

About Cargill

Cargill helps the world’s food system work for you. We connect farmers with markets, customers with ingredients and families with daily essentials – from the foods they eat to the floors they walk on. Our team around the world innovates with purpose, empowering our partners and communities as we work to nourish the world in a safe, responsible, sustainable way. This includes 2,000 colleagues across 27 locations in the Philippines, where we’ve been working since 1948 to make our global vision a local reality. Visit https://www.cargill.ph/en/home to know more.

From feed that reduces methane emissions to waste-based renewable fuels, the possibilities are boundless. But our values remain the same. We put people first. We reach higher. We do the right thing. It’s how Cargill has met the needs of the people we call neighbors and the planet we call home for 157 years – and how we’ll do so for generations to come. For more information, visit Cargill.com and our News Center.

About CARE
Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE is a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty. CARE places special focus on working alongside women and girls. Equipped with the proper resources women and girls have the power to lift whole families and entire communities out of poverty. In 2020, CARE worked in over 100 countries, reaching more than 90 million people through 1,300 projects. To learn more, visit www.care.org.

South Sudan continues to be one of the deadliest places to be an aid worker

  • CARE Philippines
  • Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

South Sudan continues to be one of the deadliest places to be an aid worker, according to
analysis done by CARE International on data from the Humanitarian Outcomes Aid Worker
Security Database. Forty-four aid workers have lost their lives globally since the beginning of
this year, including 11 in South Sudan, 8 in Afghanistan and 7 in Myanmar. Not only are
these three countries among the most dangerous places for aid workers, they are also
incredibly challenging places for citizens, with nearly 40 million people facing hunger across
these countries.

Abel Whande, CARE South Sudan Country Director, said, “South Sudan is facing its worst
hunger crisis since it gained independence 11 years ago. That the very people committed to
easing suffering and supporting the most vulnerable continue to be killed, is horrifying.
Failing to ensure the safety of humanitarians means disruptions to vital aid operations, and
with 7.74 million people in South Sudan facing acute hunger, these disruptions could mean
the difference between life and death for some. And this year, the knock-on effects of the
Ukraine crisis are exacerbating the situation, with sharp increases in the cost of food and
fuel causing more pain and suffering.”

The single deadliest day for aid workers in 2022 so far occurred in Afghanistan, when eight
polio vaccinators were killed while conducting home visits on 24 February. Polio vaccinators
have frequently been targeted in Afghanistan, one of only two countries where wild
poliovirus is endemic – the other country being Pakistan.

CARE Afghanistan’s Humanitarian Advocacy Advisor, Mélissa Cornet, said, “It’s devastating
that eight aid workers have died in Afghanistan this year. They were doing incredibly
important work in a country that is in the midst of a complex humanitarian crisis – nearly 19
million people face acute hunger, the economy has all but collapsed, affected communities
are still reeling from last month’s deadly earthquake and the price of food and everyday
essentials has skyrocketed over the past year. Women and girls are often disproportionately
affected in times of crisis and this crisis is no exception. We continue to hear reports of girls
being married at a young age just to help the family survive. It’s essential that aid workers –
including women humanitarian workers who are so critical to reaching women and girls –
are protected, so they can continue carrying out lifesaving work.”

So far in Myanmar in 2022, seven humanitarian workers have died. “One million people are
now displaced in Myanmar and over 13 million people in the country face hunger. It is
crucial that aid workers are protected, and humanitarian organisations have unimpeded
access to affected communities to carry out vital work,” said Nate Rabe, Country Director
for CARE International in Myanmar.

Three aid workers have died in attacks in Ukraine this year – the first aid worker deaths in
the country since 2014. “The security situation for aid workers has deteriorated sharply
since the escalation in conflict in February this year. With a third of Ukrainians displaced
from their homes and millions still inside the country, it’s more important than ever that the
safety of humanitarian workers is preserved so they can carry out critical work,” said
Richard Simpson, CARE Country Representative Ukraine.

“While the situation is incredibly difficult and precarious for so many in Ukraine, tragically,
we are witnessing several donor governments re-directing overseas development
assistance, especially to respond to the crisis in their own countries, which indirectly
impacts funding for other humanitarian crises. As a result, humanitarian appeals of
countries experiencing the worst hunger and famine-conditions, including Somalia, Mali,
Niger, Afghanistan and South Sudan, are drastically under-funded,” said Delphine Pinault,
Humanitarian Policy Advocacy Coordinator & UN Representative for CARE International.
This year’s World Humanitarian Day theme #ItTakesAVillage is inspired by the saying ‘It
takes a village to raise a child.’ Similarly, it takes a village to support a person in a
humanitarian crisis – aid agencies, local volunteers and emergency services come together
to provide urgent health care, shelter, food, protection, water, livelihoods and much more.
Ms Pinault said, “And with the world facing an unprecedented hunger crisis, the
international donor community plays a crucial role in ensuring funding decisions are strictly
needs-based and not politically driven.”

Notes to the editor
Analysis is based on the Humanitarian Outcomes’ Aid Worker Security database
where incidents are defined as deliberate acts of violence affecting aid workers, such
as killings, kidnappings, and attacks that result in serious
injury: https://aidworkersecurity.org/incidents/. Numbers in the database for 2022
are provisional for the first six months of the year, with full official annual figures
released at the end of calendar years. 2022 figures are available here:

There have been 73 major attacks on aid workers so far in 2022 with 44 deaths this
year (numbers accurate as of 1 August). The majority of deaths, 95%, involved
national staff (42 out of 44 deaths were national staff. The two international staff
were killed in South Sudan and Mali). South Sudan tops the fatalities list so far in
2022 with 11 deaths.

Funding of humanitarian response plans https://hum-insight.info/
About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation
fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience
helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a
crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed.
CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often
disproportionately affected by disasters.

To learn more, visit www.care-international.org
For media enquiries contact:
Suzy Sainovski
Senior Humanitarian Communications Coordinator, CARE International

Humanitarian organizations to launch Typhoon Odette photo exhibit in Siargao, highlight need of survivors

  • Mary Therese Norbe
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

Humanitarian organizations will be launching a photo exhibit in Siargao next week to raise awareness about the impact of Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) and the concerted efforts of residents and various groups in rebuilding the affected communities.

The photo exhibition dubbed “The Last Mile,” which will open on August 15, 6 p.m. at the Siago Beach Resort in General Luna, Siargao Island, just a few days before the commemoration of the World Humanitarian Day (August 19).

The event is organized by non-government organizations and local government units working on the Typhoon Odette Response. The aim of the event is to urge the national government and other stakeholders to not forget those most vulnerable in times of disaster.

It will feature almost a hundred images captured by organizations who implemented the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (EU-ECHO)-supported emergency response for the survivors of Typhoon Odette: ACCORD, Action Against Hunger, Care Philippines, Humanity & Inclusion, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS) Inc., National Rural Women’s Coalition, Oxfam Pilipinas, Plan International, Save the Children Philippines, and Sentro para sa Ikauunlad ng Katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya (SIKAT) Inc.

European Union (EU) Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron will be giving a message at the opening event of the exhibit, followed by presentations by the participating organizations.

“We want to showcase these powerful images to show just how devastating typhoons are to marginalized and remote communities in the Philippines. We also want to show what we can do together to save lives and reduce the risks and impacts of disasters,” said Oxfam Pilipinas Country Director Lot Felizco.

“With climate change, we expect more intense typhoons to hit the Philippines. We hope the exhibit will also give people hope that something can be done and is being done to strengthen our communities against future disasters and to help them recover from Typhoon Odette,” she added.

CARE Philippines Country Director David Gazashvili said the exhibit will also show the achievements and challenges that residents and humanitarian organizations face eight months after the devastation of Typhoon Odette.

“The exhibit shows how the quick and substantial funding from the EU-ECHO, the power of communities, women and men, boys and girls working together and collaborating with humanitarian actors have effectively addressed urgent humanitarian needs, especially of those who need the most assistance. But it also brings to the surface the challenges of prioritizing disaster-preparedness, risk reduction, and climate change mitigation and adaptation,” he added.

EU-ECHO’s funding of the Typhoon Odette emergency response has enabled the provision  of emergency services to almost half a million individuals in Bohol, Cebu, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Negros Occidental, Palawan, and Surigao del Norte through the implementation of two consortia: one led by CARE, with ACCORD Inc., National Rural Women’s Coalition, Plan International, and Action Against Hunger; and another led by  Oxfam Pilipinas and jointly implemented by Save the Children and Humanity & Inclusion (HI), together with local partners SIKAT Inc. and IDEALS Inc.

The joint efforts of the groups resulted in the distribution of food and livelihood assistance to 70,643 individuals; water, sanitation and hygiene packs for 75,394; protection assistance for 147,549; shelter provision for 72,902; health services for 68,317; and “education in emergency” assistance for 41,205.

Besides attending the photo exhibit, the EU ambassador will also be visiting Pilar in Siargao Island to observe EU-ECHO-funded activities such as the “Education in Emergency” component of the project in Caridad Elementary School. As part of the Typhoon Odette Emergency Response, the school’s teachers received training, supplies and a multi-purpose learning space where “return to learning” sessions are being held. The consortium also assisted in the construction of the multi-learning space and the repair of the damaged classrooms, which will also be turned over next week

For the coming months, the groups will continue to provide the same support for the most affected communities in Bohol, Cebu, Dinagat Islands, Southern Leyte, Negros Occidental, Palawan, and Surigao del Norte.



Kristine Sabillo Guerrero | Senior Officer for Media and Digital Influencing, Oxfam Pilipinas

Email: kGuerrero@oxfam.org.uk | Mobile: 09175691449

150 million more women than men were hungry in 2021 – CARE analysis finds

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Featured Stories, Food & Nutrition, Gender, Gender, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

An analysis by humanitarian organisation CARE highlights, for the first time, a global link between gender inequality and food insecurity. Analysing data from 2021, the report shows that across 109 countries, as gender inequality goes up, food security goes down.

Christine Campeau, CARE’s Global Advocacy Director – Food Systems, said, “Between 2018 and 2021, the number of hungry women versus hungry men grew 8.4 times, with a staggering 150 million more women than men hungry in 2021. And the implications of the escalation of conflict in Ukraine will make the situation even worse for women, who play a crucial role across food systems and in feeding their families and communities. Gender equality is highly connected to food and nutrition security at a local, national, and global level. To put it simply, the more gender inequality there is in a country, the hungrier and more malnourished people are.”

Of the four major global datasets on gender, including the World Bank’s Gender Data Portal, the only sex disaggregated food indicators reinforce women’s role solely for their importance in reproduction: measuring anemia in women of childbearing age and counting stunting for children.
Most food security datasets are strangely silent on gender. And, despite women being responsible for 90% of preparing and buying food, they are eating last and least.

Even when both men and women are technically food insecure, women often bear bigger burdens. For example, in Somalia, while men report eating smaller meals, women report skipping meals altogether.

Aisha, who lives in a village in eastern Somalia said, “I don’t remember how old I really am, the drought has affected me mentally and physically so much that I can’t remember. Most days we don’t get anything to eat, other days we eat one meal.”

In the World Bank Gender Data Portal on food and women, the only sex disaggregated food data is related to the number of women who believe, or do not believe, that a husband is justified in beating his wife when she burns the food.

Ms Campeau said, “As women keep feeding the world, we must give them the right space in our data collection methods and analysis to make the gaps they encounter visible and work with women themselves to find solutions to those gaps. Global datasets should be publishing sex disaggregated data on food—whether the focus is on gender or on food. It is time to update our global understanding of food security and gender inequality, and, local actors, including women’s organisations in crisis-affected communities, need to get the flexible funding and support desperately needed to protect women and girls from hunger-associated gender-based-violence and protection risks.”

About CARE: Founded in 1945, CARE is a leading humanitarian organisation fighting global poverty. CARE has more than seven decades of experience helping people prepare for disasters, providing lifesaving assistance when a crisis hits, and helping communities recover after the emergency has passed. CARE places special focus on women and children, who are often disproportionately affected by disasters. To learn more, visit www.care-international.org  

For media enquiries contact:

Suzy Sainovski
Senior Humanitarian Communications Coordinator, CARE International
Email: suzy.sainovski@care.org
Skype: suzy.sainovski

Cargill PH partners with CARE Philippines to increase Covid vaccination rates in the country

  • CARE Philippines
  • Blog, Disaster Response, Featured Stories, Latest News & Stories, Press Release

Collaborating with 30 barangay local units to create vaccine awareness for ~260,000 people

Manila, Philippines (January 19, 2022)— Cargill and CARE Philippines, have collaborated with non-government organizations and business partners, to boost the vaccination rates in select areas of Bulacan Province, Batangas and South Cotabato by the end of 2021 through the COVID-19 Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) and Vaccination Roll-Out project. This vaccine advocacy project is expected to reach about 260,000 people.

More than a year after the Philippines launched its efforts for mass vaccination against COVID-19, there is still much work to be done to achieve population protection. The National Task Force against COVID-19 released statistics showcasing a slowed down rate of administering shots last October with only 375,773 compared to 523,018 of August 2021.

A possible reason could still be the existing hesitancies from Filipinos about vaccination, with only 61% of the population being willing to be vaccinated based from a survey released by the Octa Research group last October 22.

The Social Weather Stations conducted a survey to find out what the possible reasons are why Filipinos are unwilling despite being offered a free vaccination. The fear of possible side effects ranks as number one in the list followed by old age, being diagnosed with comorbidities and belief in reports of fatality.

“In Cargill, putting people first has always been a part of our values. And this value of caring for people goes beyond our employees and extends to those in the communities where  we live and work. Through the RCCE and Vaccination Roll-Out Project,  we aim to tip the scale in favor of population protection from COVID, thus allowing ourselves and our communities to bounce back from this pandemic,” said Christopher Ilagan, Cargill Philippines’ Corporate Affairs Director.

The RCCE and Vaccination Roll-Out Project, which is being implemented in Malolos City, Baliwag and Pulilan in Bulacan Province, Sto. Tomas City in Batangas, and General Santos City in South Cotabato, aims to support 30 barangay local government units (BLGUs) to increase their capacities in implementing COVID-19 policies and help encourage their residents to get vaccinated. More than 2,450 barangay officials, health workers and members of the peacekeeping team have already been trained by medical professionals to further spread information and provide communication about the risks of COVID-19 and vaccination benefits.

Support was also given to BLGUs with low vaccination rates by providing free transportation for vaccination to residents – especially women, PWDs and the elderly – from far-flung areas of the covered locations. Incentives were also given, like rice, food and hygiene kits, to encourage other community members to participate.

In alignment with the proclamation that 30 November – 01 December and 17-19 December 2021 as National Vaccination Days, the RCCE Project in  Batangas and Bulacan provided  free rides to 2,420 individuals from far flung barangays to the vaccination sites, free snacks and sanitary kits and distribution of information, education and campaign materials. The Community Health Educators (CHEs) hired and trained by the project also provided additional health manpower during the vaccination events at the selected barangays. Additionally, about 4,000 community members received rice and hygiene kits incentives from the project. Among these community members whom the project assisted to be vaccinated, more 700 of them confessed that previously, they are hesitant to take the shot but through the community education conducted by the project, they were encouraged to get vaccinated.

Romy M. Pagaduan, the chairperson of Brgy. Ligaya, General Santos City said that the project has made it easier for them to convince their residents to get vaccinated. He shared that his barangay is among those which have low vaccination rates due to people being less-informed, if not misinformed, about COVID-19 and the vaccines. “We now have the right answers to their questions especially those that were drawn from information they got from social media and rumors spread in the barangay”, he said.

The project is led by CARE Philippines and being implemented with Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks (MINCODE) and Sarangani Province Empowerment for Community Transformation Forum (Spectrum) in General Santos City, Southern Tagalog People’s Resource Center (STPRC) in Batangas and CARE Philippines in Bulacan with participation from Cargill employees across all these areas. 

Selling Flowers in the Streets during a Pandemic

Rose (24 years old) is a resident of Sapa, Barangay Panghulo, Malabon City. Her household is composed of eight individuals which includes her five children, her mother, father, aunt who is a senior citizen. Her family’s main source of income is distributing and selling Sampaguita flower garlands. 

Most members of her community lost their employment. Rose revealed that since most men in the community work at construction sites, all of them lost their jobs during the lockdown enforced by the government to control the pandemic. Women while primarily responsible for caring for the children, also sold sampaguita garlands on the side to augment household incomes. Due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or lockdown, they were unable to sell the garlands and had no sustainable source of income. 

“Bawal kasi talaga lumabas. Halimbawa, nakita ka ng barangay sa labas, huhulihin ka kaagad lalo na pag wala kang mask” (Rose, female, 24 years old, Malabon City) 

“We were not allowed to go out at all. If the barangay officials see you outside of your house, they would arrest you immediately especially if you do not have a face mask.”(Rose, female, 24 years old, Malabon City) 

Rose also mentioned that the quarantine protocols in their barangay are extremely strict. For each household, throughout the ECQ, only one person is allowed to go out and do errands. They did not have curfew hours since residents were not allowed to go out if they do not have a quarantine pass. If apprehended, curfew violators are taken to the barangay office. Rose also mentioned that those who guard and enforce quarantine protocols in their community are all men. 

When asked whether they had access to face masks during the ECQ, Rose shared that they could not afford a box of face masks. It was too expensive, so they used cloths and handkerchiefs as an alternative for protective gear. She also mentioned that practicing social distancing was difficult and almost impossible for them since their house is small and all of them were forced to stay inside.

Rose shared that they received food aid four times during the lockdown. However, this was insufficient to meet the foods needs of the whole household. Most of the time they were eating only twice or once a day in order to make food supply last longer. As for the cash aid, she mentioned that there were a lot of households in the community that did not receive cash assistance even though they lost their jobs and applied for the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP). 

“Kulang po talaga ang binibigay ng barangay. Minsan sabi ko sa anak ko pag humihingi ng pagkain, inom na lang siya tubig para ma-survive ang gutom.” (Mary (Rose’s mother), female, 49 years-old, Malabon City) 

“The food aid given by the barangay is insufficient. Sometimes when my children ask for food, I just tell them to drink lots of water so that they can endure their hunger and survive.” (Mary (rose’s mother) female, 49 years-old, Malabon City) 

Since the implementation of General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Rose and her family were able to go back to selling and distributing Sampaguita garlands. However, it would take them 8 to 9 hours of walking every day since there is no public transportation. They also mentioned that as of now there is little profit from selling since the pandemic has caused the closure of many business establishments.

How to Better Manage the COVID-19 Pandemic: Some Suggestions

Care Philippines Integrated Risk Management Director Celso Dulce shares his thoughts on how the Philippines could have handled the pandemic better.

The Philippines has been acknowledged globally as a leading practitioner on disaster risk reduction, applying community-centred approaches. We should have been drawing from this vast reservoir of experience and knowledge in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The call of the frontline healthcare workers to “sit down and talk and replan with a sense of urgency,” as infections rise unabated despite four months of lockdown, should impel us, and especially our government leaders to rethink and recalibrate.

Risk communication

We are very good at managing natural disasters. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, is an unknown, unfamiliar threat. We must saturate therefore communities, in urban slums and gated villages, in coastal areas as well as remote mountain villages, with correct information on the risks related to COVID-19. The infection prevention and control (IPC) protocols, the need to wear face masks, to frequently wash hands, to not to touch eyes, nose and mouth, to keep physical distance require behavioural change. This change does not come overnight. There is therefore the need for constant reminders, about the risks, about the capacity of the healthcare system being swamped, and about what the people can and should do. The messaging that we are doing okay, that we have beaten the UP projection, that we are doing better compared to other countries does not help.

Threats of, and actual arrests are also not achieving their intended outcomes. Threats of arrests alone do not work. A comprehensive plan and approach, and effective implementation should prove superior to threats of arrest. It is also equally important that the leaders we look up to, from the national level to the community, are observed to be models in practicing IPC protocols. It is important that leaders lead by words and by actions.

Equally important, let us undertake risk communication applying our vaunted community-based approaches. Let us raise the awareness and educate every community official, every informal community leader, every community member, on the risks of the pandemic and on the appropriate measures to defeat the threat. Let us mobilize all of them as our risk communicators.

Monitoring, testing, tracing, isolating, and treating

Health surveillance should involve every individual in every household, community, economic enterprise big and small, and all government offices and facilities. Self-assessment tools are available. Some households and offices are already conducting self-assessment regularly for early detection of symptoms of infection among them. This practice should be expanded, with support in terms of setting up reporting mechanisms linked to official COVID-19 surveillance systems in the community and local government unit.

Much energy has been spent on the debate about mass testing. We need free, mass testing. By mass we mean bulk, or quantity, not 100% of the 110 million total population. Targeted mass testing should be done, informed by monitoring information on the geographic concentration of COVID-19 cases. With targeted mass testing, 100% coverage can be carried out in specific communities and sub-villages. Why free? Vulnerable households cannot afford the costs of testing. Free testing also removes the excuse for not undergoing the test.

Failure to identify infected persons, using available information coming out of the tests, will put to waste all pandemic response efforts, and result in unimaginable economic costs and human suffering, as we are now experiencing.

Aggressive contact tracing must be carried out. This is an efficient use of the mass testing results compared to random, hit and miss testing. It also narrows down substantially the number of individuals that will be actively monitored for possible infection.

Effectively isolate the confirmed, suspected and probables. Apply a mix of approaches appropriate to specific contexts. Home quarantine is possible for upper middleclass households but not for the urban poor. Conditions among the poor (highly congested living spaces) would just result in whole families being infected. Putting urban poor communities under hard lockdown, with threats of arrest but without putting in place other measures to isolate the confirmed, suspects and probables would be counter-productive. Continued access to critical services shall also be made available especially to vulnerable groups including older people, persons with disabilities, seriously ill persons, and indigent households in lockdown situations so that there is no reason to violate protocols.

More isolation facilities can be set up. Alternative temporary shelter models are available; they can be adapted to different requirements for isolation, in place of cramming people during lockdowns into congested spaces with little WASH facilities and other basic necessities.

Provide free treatment to those infected, giving priority to the poor. The cost of hospitalization and treatment is literally driving potential patients to the ground. By encouraging people to seek treatment, think about the benefits in terms of the number of individuals that will no longer be affected because patients are actively seeking health care.

Our healthcare system is near collapse. There is no reason not to believe the cry for a timeout and for decision-makers to reflect on the situation and to introduce essential changes. For a start, government should take better care of our frontline healthcare workers. Provide adequate PPEs, better working environment, shorter working hours, increased salaries and benefits, and transportation support. Without improving their working conditions, we cannot expect prospective healthcare workers to queue in recruitment offices.

All the surveillance efforts must be closely linked to risk communication objectives. A negative test is not a guarantee that an individual will no longer be infected later. A patient that has recovered already is not guaranteed that reinfection will not occur. Risk communication must be continuous, so that the change in behaviour we want is achieved and maintained.

Resilient livelihoods

Household livelihoods should be given equal importance. We must not be blind to the fact that many people are violating protocols because they feel they have no choice. This is supported by a Gender Analysis study. “Its either the virus will kill us, or hunger will” is also an oft-repeated declaration of the poor. Government should support financially and technically poor and economically-displaced households to shift to livelihood activities that are safe to undertake for them and for the community. Disasters can also create opportunities, including in livelihoods. Now more than ever, the strategies of diversification, protection and strengthening must be applied to make livelihood activities resilient.

For those employed in the private sector or government, each office or business enterprise must put in place strict IPC protocols. Daily symptoms monitoring must be carried out, work from home arrangement be put in place where appropriate, workplace safety measures must also be in place. Extreme lockdowns are bad for business. Serious infection in workplaces are similarly bad for business. A happy balance between keeping the business going and ensuring safety of employees and the public must be achieved. In this light, the responsibility of government to monitor private and public sector compliance with health protocols as well as employees rights must be ensured.

Transportation and travel

Transportation is the lifeblood of the economy. Transportation is also vital in delivering basic services, as well as urgent humanitarian assistance. Strangle transportation and we asphyxiate the economy, basic service and humanitarian assistance delivery. There is a need to rethink the transportation strategy in the time of the pandemic. Pre-COVID, developing mass transportation was seen as the ideal path to development. Mass transportation has become more important at the time of the pandemic, due to IPC concerns. Government must therefore seek out new strategies to make mass transportation available to the public. Look at the option of subsidizing the operations of bus companies. Seriously rethink the policy on jeepneys and motorcycles. If there are risks about observance of health protocols, what should be done to mitigate the risks? This of course should be combined with limiting movement to essential travel. Require big private companies and government offices to bring to the office and bring back home their workers. In the minimum government should provide transportation to hospital workers. They can barely don off and then put on again their PPEs. The least that government can do is reduce the hours they need to go home to their families, if we desire our healthcare system not to totally collapse.

In terms of compliance to let travel restrictions, enforcement should be made at point of source and destination instead of having highly visible checkpoints that create monstrous traffic jams along major thoroughfares. Let us empower communities and homeowners’ associations to become responsible travel restriction enforcers.

Participation and community engagement

The magnitude of the problem is so massive that government alone cannot manage the pandemic. To be successful, government has to rely on the people, on their participation in all aspects of COVID-19 response. As mentioned earlier, we have extensive experience in community-centred DRR. We should use such experience to our advantage.

Vulnerable groups have specific needs. We have seen an elderly couple, the husband pushing a wheelchair several kilometres going to the hospital for regular dialysis on wheelchair. We have seen young couples with dead babies in their arms because they could not be admitted in hospitals. We have seen senior citizens braving the rain and possible infection to get their ayuda (assistance). The list is long. Older people, persons with disabilities, persons with chronic illness, pregnant and lactating women, solo parents, indigent households and indigenous people, among other have specific needs during disasters and pandemics that must be identified and addressed.

Civil society organization, NGOs, international NGOs, UN agencies and institutional donors have been our partners in past emergencies. They should not be excluded from participating in all aspects of the response to COVID-19.

Upholding human rights

All people have rights, including the right to life with dignity. The rights cannot be set aside in the name of pandemic protection and control, or any disaster. Where people are vulnerable to natural hazards, climate and environmental risks, or pandemics, violations of human rights exist. Their vulnerability indicates the lack of access to basic services. These vulnerabilities are often heightened during times of humanitarian emergencies, when access to basic services and humanitarian assistance is denies. The right to receive assistance, the right to participate, the right to have a say in decisions affecting them, the right to life with dignity are often violated during emergencies.

It is the right of the people to benefit from quality design and delivery of programs and services. This right creates an obligation on duty bearers, foremost the government, to constantly work for excellence, regularly reflecting on implementation to with the aim of identifying areas where improvement can be undertaken. All duty-bearers have the responsibility to uphold these rights, especially during emergencies. And being onion-skinned in the face of public criticism has no place in public service.

Women Leading Emergencies

Gender equality and social inclusion are cross-cutting themes that are central to CARE’s emergency and development programming.

Why Women Lead in Emergencies? Most women affected by crisis have little or no influence over decisions that affect their lives and this matters because participation is a right. Women have a human right to participate in the public and political life of their community and country. But it’s a right that’s not put into practice, and especially in emergencies. In CARE, we believe when women’s voices are not heard, women’s rights and needs are often not adequately met, and emergency response can reinforce gender inequality. Women’s equal voice, leadership, and participation save lives, and challenges and transforms the root causes of poverty and injustice. Through the latest project, Women Lead in the Philippines (WLiE), Gender Equality and Women’s Voice meets Inclusive Governance in CARE’s 2020 Program Strategy as a joint initiative.

The said project is a 9-month action research that pilots a 5-element model built on the objective of women being able to influence decisions about their lives. Globally, this project is part of a larger Women Lead in Emergencies initiative. In the Philippines, Women Lead will be embedded in the programming of three diverse projects and teams working in disaster risk reduction and climate governance (INCREASE), Bangsamoro women’s health (NCD), and rural women’s organizing with a focus on Protection and GBViE/SRHiE (PKKK).

Through WLiE, the organization looks to integrate the projects in its already existing humanitarian and development/resilience projects across 23 municipalities in 7 provinces, including 6 mass evacuation camps in Marawi City. The natural and man-made crises experienced in these sites vary – Eastern Samar, Cebu, and Leyte in the Visayas islands are regularly beset by typhoons; Marawi City is Ground Zero of the 2017 siege in Mindanao, which displaced 350,000 people;  Surigao del Surand Northern Samar are incredibly remote, with some communities located eight-hour hikes away from the nearest town center.             

The goal is to engage more than 500 women leaders and 2,000 individuals through community-based women’s groups and collectives in 8 months, while working  with local DRR organizations AADC and LCDE, and continue to develop relationships with local women’s rights networks PKKK through stand-alone activities to strengthen the voice, leadership and meaningful participation of poor and marginalized women directly affected by crisis in humanitarian action and programs, and in public decision-making, both formal and informal. WLIE adheres to six principles: women acting with women, women deciding, doing no harm, meeting women where they are, increasing quality of participation, and transforming unequal power and decision-making skills.

Join the fight.
Sign up for our mailing list.