Responding to needs in Philippines: Typhoon Haima
The people in the Isabela and Cagayan provinces of the Philippines braced for 139-mile winds, flooding and potential landslides. With the remembrance of the many storms that have hit the country in the past, they prepared as best they could for the Category 4 typhoon heading their way.
Typhoon Haima made landfall on Oct. 19, 2016, leading to at least 13 casualties, displacing 200,000 people and causing extensive damage to more than 46,000 homes — one city reported 100 percent damage. The storm was the second typhoon to hit the Philippines in the course of just five days, leaving residents in need of aid.
Before and after the storm, The United Methodist Church and its partners were there — not only in the 1,400 local churches that dot the island nation’s landscape, but also as volunteers and relief workers waiting to assist in the storm’s wake.
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Typhoon Haima damaged all types of infrastructure, including communication channels, a necessary component to relief efforts. United Methodist Communication’s Information & Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D) team was on the ground and ready to assist.
“Preparedness is key. A timely response to those in need creates a bigger impact, especially if it is done through the church,” said April Mercado, special projects manager for ICT4D Church Initiatives.
Mercado was in action immediately after Typhoon Haima made landfall, providing sources of electricity and technical assistance for ham radio operators.
ICT4D loaned the North Isabela District of The United Methodist Church a solar generator to support its local churches and surrounding communities.
“Many people from the neighborhood…came with everything that is rechargeable, from cell phones, flashlights, radios and even electric fans,” said the Rev. Erwyn Maggay, leader of the district. “That made them feel happy because they did not feel isolated due to the power outage.”
Volunteers from the Philippine Amateur Radio Association assisted in providing solar generators, repairing antennas and programming portable radios to improve radio networks across the Isabela province. Their work supported the United Methodist Amateur Radio Club, a group of laity and clergy who are trained and licensed ham operators ready to respond in times of disaster.
The radio network is key in communicating with humanitarian aid workers. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) included The United Methodist Church’s efforts in its Oct. 24 Typhoon Haima report. Solidifying the importance of the work, the report stated, “Considering the limited access to other communication channels, ham radio is being used to support affected communities to communicate with their loved ones and provide feedback to their evolving needs.”
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is responding to the disaster through agency partners in the Philippines, providing food and water for displaced persons recovering from the storm.
Facing weeks without electricity and months of rebuilding, the people of the Philippines will need continuous support. “Let us give dignity to the disaster-affected communities. They are not begging, but they need our help,” Mercado said.
The United Methodist Church is present worldwide when and where there is need, both in short and long-term disaster recovery situations. Donations can be made to support UMCOR’s international disaster response, Advance #982450, online or by calling 1-888-252-6174.
*Laura Buchanan is a PR Specialist at United Methodist Communications