Facts and Figures: After the tragedy
Sent ot MIFby Deacon Mario Van Loon
Taken from the Social Action Center Newsletter
The Relief Operation:
Since the first shipment of relief goods left the Mount Carmel Shrine Parish Relief Center in New Manila during the first days of December 2004 we have distributed more than 250,000 food packages to the victims of the calamity in the Prelature. Of course more than 200,000 of these went to Dingalan, Infanta, Real and Nakar, where the need was greatest. But we also served San Luis, Baler, Maria Aurora, and even up to Casiguran area. Special attention was given also to our tribal sisters and brothers. They got a very big share. A conservative estimate puts the value of an average package at 200 pesos. This results in an amount of 50 million pesos in food packages distributed so far. Included her are the packages given in the program Food-for-Work.
After the first two weeks of relief food we began delivery of kitchen items and other household articles to replace the ones lost by the families with totally or partially washed out houses. Our list is not complete because several deliveries did not pass through our relief center in Manila or in Infanta and were brought directly to the people in the barrios. We can guarantee, however, that the value of these items surpasses the 5 million pesos mark.
The Food-for-Work Program:
The first week of January 2005 we agreed with almost all the NGOs working in the area that we would change from Relief Food Distribution to Food-for-Work. This means that people will work for the community in one or the other project for up to three hours for which they will receive one day of food for their family. This was also done based on the urgent request of the mayors of the three towns: "Get our people working again…"! The cleaning up of the towns of Real, Infanta and Nakar was greatly helped by this program. Food-for-Work is continuing today especially in building houses, reviving agricultural land and rebuilding infrastructure like irrigation canals.
The Provisory Shelter Program:
The first week of February started the first batch of our Provisory Shelter-building program. Our partner for this first batch in Real, Infanta and Nakar (RIN) is Christian Aid. Our partner for the first batch in Dingalan is YMCA. The second batch in RIN and Dingalan will be done in partnership with the National Social Action office (NASA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.
On March 31, 2005 we had completed in RIN 491 of the targeted 500 shelters in partnership with Christian Aid. This program is covered by an amount of almost 6 million pesos. In Dingalan the YMCA is building 127 shelters.
The second batch will consist of 450 shelters in RIN and 450 shelters in Dingalan in partnership with NASA.
At this point we have to make a clarification of terms. We use the term SHELTER for a provisory house that is constructed mainly from wood with a roof of galvanized iron. The term HOUSE is used for a construction involving concrete flooring and partially or totally concrete walls. The projects we have so far initiated are all for shelters. In the future we hope to start projects on housing.
On Mach 30 we called for a meeting with other agencies/organizations involved in shelter or housing. It proved very profitable to coordinate and compare notes. What came out of this meeting is the following:
* Kumare, the organization of the women initiated by the Sion sisters, is close to completing the construction of 121 permanent houses for their members. This project involves a down payment for the acquisition of the land by those who do not yet own the land they are building their permanent houses on.
* The local chapter of Rotary International is going to build 35 permanent houses in barangay Pinaglapatan in Infanta.
* ICTC, the Inter-Congregational Theological Center, is going to build 46 shelters in two barangays in Nakar: Magsikap and Sablang.
* The Philippine Red Cross has decided to build 1000 shelters for victimized families. They agree to accept in their program the families we will indicate.
* Oxfam Great Britain will build also an amount of shelters (more than 700) for the victims that we will identify for them.
The calamity destroyed a total of 4000 houses in Real, Infanta and Nakar. It seems now a reasonable target to have replaced 3000 of these by provisory shelters and permanent houses by the first weeks of May.
On the level of houses NASA is interested in building villages of permanent houses in the three municipalities. Due to the lack of donations of land NASA is considering the possibility of acquiring land, always when the price is reasonable. We are presently investigating the possibility of acquiring 15 hectares in the municipality of Nakar for this purpose.
Other organizations with the same plans of building permanent houses have requested the municipalities to donate land for their housing program. So far this has not brought any positive results. The municipalities do not have land and do not have the funds to buy substantial amounts of land.
The Livelihood Program:
During the past months we have already provided some farmers' communities with seeds for vegetable gardens. This small-scale operation had some good results. It also provided us with valuable information about the possible use of alternative crops like vegetables on the (rice) land affected by the mudflows from the mountains.
On April 2 we have launched a comprehensive livelihood program again in cooperation with Christian Aid. This program has several components:
* A comprehensive program of rehabilitation of the affected agricultural lands with the help of experienced agriculturists, who will introduce sustainable bio-farming. Revival of the rice fields as far as this proves possible. Cleaning and / or rebuilding of the irrigation system or providing for alternative irrigation facilities like pumps. Conversion of rice-fields into vegetable farms if this proofs to be the only alternative. The acquisition or hiring of equipment to make the project possible.
* A comprehensive program of rehabilitation of the fishing industry by providing new fishing boats and nets to fisher-folks' communities by introducing a cooperative system and the introduction of new forms of aqua-industry like see-weed cultivation.
* A big scale livestock dispersal program involving small animals (chickens, ducks etc.) and big animals (pigs, cows, kalabaw etc.) with the corresponding education of the participants.
* The establishment of a marketing system, so the excess products can be sold in the markets of Manila and other big cities outside the area.
This quite ambitious plan is not limited to the partnership between our Social Action Center and Christian Aid. In a way these two partners have drawn up the framework and provided the initial financial backing. There are many other partners who will take part on this endeavor. About them we will write in the next Newsletter.
There have been so many medical missions in the area, many organized spontaneously by universities, medical institutions and most often congregations, that we have not been able to keep track of all of them. Already the first days after the disaster doctors and nurses went in the area by helicopter and by boat. Since then many have followed. Thanks to all of these beautiful initiatives the health situation has been brought under control very quickly. Several organizations have made long lasting commitments. They come to a certain municipality once a month with doctors and dentists and serve the sick. The Social Action Center has provided logistic support to these missions and in many cases bought additional medicines.
The last days of March we got the scare of several cases of dengue fever. The weather had been sunny for several days and the mosquitoes were multiplying. Stagnant water is everywhere in big quantities. It will take some time to change this situation. In the meantime we use all the necessary precautions to avoid spreading of dengue and malaria.
Processing the Soul:
It goes without saying that there are many traumatized people, especially children, in the area. Teams of counselors have been processing them. This "debriefing" is ongoing and will be continued for several months.
During the month of January it proved necessary to exam more closely the groups that were coming in, because not all proved well equipped for this work, making sometimes the wounds deeper instead of healing them. The Social Action Center took it on itself to provide screening and it advises the parishes on who could be trusted with this delicate work.
The Social Action Staff:
A very important fact we should not forget is the development of the staff of the Social Action Center and the Parish Social Action Offices and for the Social Action of the Tribal Center for Development (TCD). Bishop Tria Tirona made it very clear from the very start of our work that he wanted the Social Action to have "a bit" in the parishes, meaning the Social Action should be implemented by the Parishes under the leadership of the Parish priest and in the case of the TCD of Fr. Pete Montallana. Our social action should be felt by the most poor and affected victims.
At present the three Parishes, the TCD and the Social Action Center in Infanta have each a staff of five Social Action workers. The urgency of the situation provided only for 'on-the-job training', i.e. learning by implementing. The good results of our work, especially in the shelter program, proof that the process was effective.
During the months of April, May and June we will be able to give more explicit formation to the staff to equip them for the next phase of the program.
Thousands of people and organizations have contributed their share to make the above-mentioned results possible. Any lists of donors would be deficient. Many came and went even without telling us their name. They wanted to stay anonymous. However, we still want to make special mentioning of certain organizations that helped in a special way. We will provide a special corner for that in the next issue of this Newsletter.
Posted April 23, 2005