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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Dec. 3, 2012) - Heifer International’s Philippines country office is preparing its offices and working with project participants there to batten down for the onslaught of extremely dangerous Super Typhoon Bopha, the equivalent to a Category 5 hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean.
Millions of people, many of whom live in remote and unprepared communities, are in Super Typhoon Bopha's path. The storm, with 160 mph winds, is bearing down on the Philippines island of Mindanao, and is expected to make landfall in the east coast fishing village of Hinatuan around 6 a.m. Tuesday Philippines time (4 p.m. today, Central Standard Time), and then continue west-northwestward through the central Philippines. Mindanao is the second largest and easternmost island in the Philippines.
Heifer Philippines has a number of projects and subprojects in the Southern Philippines, the storm’s primary strike zone, but there are also a number of projects in the Central and Northern Philippines, which will be impacted by Bopha’s tertiary bands of high winds and heavy rains.
The typhoon is following a similar track to last year's Tropical Storm Washi, which struck Mindanao on Dec. 16, 2011, with 60 mph winds and torrential rains. Washi triggered devastating flooding that killed 1268 people. Washi was merely a tropical storm, and Bopha is likely to hit at Category 4 or 5 strength, making it the strongest typhoon ever recorded in Mindanao. The last super typhoon to track through the southern Philippines was Super Typhoon Mike (Philippines name "Ruping"), in November 1990, killing 748 people.
Because so many Heifer International project communities are in areas sensitive to climatic events—hurricanes, fires, floods, mudslides, etc.—the organization has worked with its country programs to develop Community-Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR) plans to help prepare for and to mitigate events just such as this.
Heifer Philippines, which was identified as the organization’s No. 1 country of concern for natural disasters due to typhoons and tropical storms, is the furthest along of all Heifer program offices in readiness, but no level of work can prepare rural people and programs for a storm of this magnitude.
Through the CMDRR, families have been taught to secure their livestock and secure feed for the animal, to harvest all harvestable crops to secure food for the family, to secure water and firewood, trim branches near the house to reduce the risk of flying debris, and for fishermen to secure their boats.
Families have been instructed where to muster for safety, how to secure important papers in weatherproof plastic bags and store them securely, to cook food early and to cook extra for the storm’s aftermath, and to safely secure cash. They also have been taught to secure education materials for their children, round up candles kerosene and batteries, and to evacuate to a place of safety or to shelter safely in place if possible.
“We are doing everything we can from here, and our country staff and families are doing everything they can in the Philippines to get ready for this frightening storm,” said Mahendra Lohani, vice president of Heifer’s Asia/South Pacific programs, “but a typhoon such as this truly defies preventive measures.
“Our hopes and thoughts are with the staff and families and we stand ready to respond once the storm passes.”
Families such as Marion and Roger Alagano, who live with their four daughters in the remote village of Babalang. The family started with near nothing when they joined a Heifer project, and today they are able to send all their daughters to school. “This is the only heritage we will be able to leave them,” said Roger Alagano.
Super Typhoon Bopha threatens that heritage, their very lives, so it’s so important to help families prepare for and then to recover from a disaster so profound as this.
That’s why Heifer created a Disaster Rehabilitation Fund—a pool of money that can be accessed by country offices affected by disasters such as this that exceed their ability to cope. The fund provide resources for an appropriate initial response to the disaster, but more important, to begin planning for the longer-term recovery that reflects Heifer’s model.
“Having a fund such as this to help people with their own recovery is critical,” said Lohani.
Heifer International is by no means a traditional first responder. We specialize in Values-Based Community Development rather than relief, so in situations such as this, Heifer’s work is intended to complement, not duplicate, the work of government and other immediate aid NGOs in an initial response. Our role, when needed, is limited to short-term provisional support—food, water and transportation—with an emphasis on helping existing Heifer project participants and the to direct all efforts toward long-term agricultural rehabilitation.
Updates will be provided as they become available.
About Heifer International:
Heifer’s mission is to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer International has provided livestock and environmentally sound agricultural training to improve the lives of those who struggle daily for reliable sources of food and income. Heifer is currently working in more than 40 countries, including the United States, to help families and communities become more self-reliant. For more information, visit www.heifer.org, read our blog, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or call (800) 696-1918.