UN mission visits Albay, Catanduanes to assess response to typhoons Rolly and Ulysses

Published February 9, 2021, 6:06 PM

by Roy Mabasa

 The United Nations (UN) has recently dispatched a high-level mission to the provinces of Albay and Catanduanes to assess the effectiveness of its integrated response through humanitarian assistance to help families affected by Typhoons Rolly (Goni) and Ulysses (Vamco) recover faster and stronger. 

This handout photo taken and received on November 2, 2020 courtesy of Philippine Senator Bong Go shows an aerial view of destroyed houses in the island province of Catanduanes, in the aftermath of Typhoon Goni. (Photo by Handout / Philippine Senator Bong Go / AFP)

This integrated approach was made possible through the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), one of the fastest and most effective ways to ensure that urgently needed humanitarian assistance reaches people caught up in crisis.

“The immediate needs of typhoon-affected Filipinos in Albay and Catanduanes are immense,” UN Philippines Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez said, shortly after the mission’s visit in Albay and Catanduanes on Jan. 27-30.

“We cannot be fragmented in our response if we are to meet their needs in a timely manner. Through CERF we are making sure that we are able to respond in a way that is unified and thus more impactful.”

Aside from Gonzales, among those who joined the high-level mission were Canadian Ambassador Peter MacArthur, German Ambassador Anke Reiffenstuel, representatives of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), IOM—the UN Migration Agency, UNICEF and World Food Programme (WFP), and other humanitarian partners.

Following Super Typhoon Rolly, CERF approved an allocation of $3.1 million (P150 million) for the Philippines to provide life-saving assistance to 55,000 most affected people in Albay and Catanduanes. The funding allocation to UNICEF, IOM and the WFP allowed the three agencies to prioritize water supplies, sanitation services, hygiene, emergency shelter and food to address time-critical needs. 

 This UN’s pilot approach has been reinforced by the use of a flexible and reliable beneficiary registration and transfer management platform called SCOPE. Administered by WFP, SCOPE has been particularly useful for joint cash assistance interventions by IOM, UNICEF and WFP because it prevents duplication, makes the beneficiary registration process easier as it is done only once, and utilizes a unified questionnaire developed by the three agencies. 

Dr. Cedric Daep, Department Head, Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), said the CERF projects add value in the immediate provision of support in the form of repair or reconstruction of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) facilities, set-up of emergency shelter and distribution of repair kits, cash assistance for emergency livelihood, psychosocial support to at-risk communities, and cross-cutting protection support through community engagement as well as accountability to the affected population.

Catanduanes Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida, for his part, said under CERF, “the UN followed closely the result of our assessment of needs and vulnerabilities after Typhoons Rolly and Ulysses.”

During the assessment, both provinces proposed that CERF would consider improving its early action criteria and act as a guarantor that unlocks multilateral funding mechanisms that support disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation and local resilience. 

Among the urgent needs noted in the two provinces were the need to repair or purchase fishing boats and nets of fisherfolks and the support for setting up abaca nurseries, as 80 percent of abaca plants in Catanduanes have been damaged by Super Typhoon Rolly.  

Albay’s disaster risk reduction management office aims to establish permanent relocation and to construct permanent evacuation centers while residential and community lots need additional funding support to construct, repair or retrofit the houses.

The UN representative in Manila stressed that a lot of work remains to be done to complete the process of rebuilding in Albay and Catanduanes even as he expressed the UN’s commitment to the recovery of the affected Filipinos with the help of its partners.