NASSA/Caritas Philippines is the humanitarian, development and advocacy arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines. Likewise, it is a member of Caritas Internationalis, the worldwide confederation of Catholic charities based at the Vatican.
In 2013, the national Caritas implemented the biggest-funded, most comprehensive and far-reaching humanitarian response in the history of the Catholic Church. The total response amounted to over 1.8 billion pesos, benefiting more than 1.2 million Filipinos across 166 communities, 51 municipalities, 9 provinces, and 4 regions.
It is from this experience that we were able to build up the expertise on community-managed disaster risk reduction (CMDRR). From the very beginning of the response – assessment, program development, intervention design, implementation, monitoring, evaluation and sustainability mechanism discussions – the communities have been present, engaged and were taking the lead in decision-making. It was during the Haiyan response that we were able to prove that comprehensive assessment is possible even at the height of a disaster.
But we do not want to settle with doing assessments and program development at a time when stress levels are high and the communities need food and shelter, enumerating their needs, vulnerabilities, risks, hazards and capacities.
Thus, after Typhoon Haima (Lawin) in 2016, with funding from UKAid through the CDAC (Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities) Network and World Vision, NASSA/Caritas Philippines implemented an eight-month project aimed at capitalising on communities’ preparedness to link improvement of humanitarian response to more sustainable development programs. The project: “Strengthening Community Engagement in Northern Luzon in the Philippines” was implemented in 10 Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) in 4 municipalities and 2 cities in the province of Isabela from January to August 2017. It was under the Disaster and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP).
In a province so used to receiving DRR management and preparedness awards, it was unfortunate to note that these awards do not really reflect on-ground situations as what happened in Haima. As such, the project was designed to enhance community resilience by institutionalising the following:
- Creation and training of Community Disaster Task Groups (information and communication, early warning systems and protocols, emergency relief and rescue, and community volunteers)
- Institutionalisation of Community-managed Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (CMEAL) Teams
- Conducting, validating, sharing and updating of Participatory Disaster Risk Assessment (PDRA) and pre-crisis mapping (aid preferences) results
As an over-arching framework, CMDRR was introduced to the communities through the community organising the approach and principles. And since NASSA/Caritas Philippines is a Catholic organisation, value formation was utmost in the process. This strategy proved not only to ensure attendance and participation during community meetings and gatherings, but more importantly, solidified trust-building and community empowerment efforts.
Overall, the project was able to:
- 100% achieve the original targets of the project
- Strengthen the organisational structure and capacities of the Diocesan Social Action Center (DSAC) of Ilagan
- Open better opportunities of collaboration, partnership and coordination between the communities, the government and the church, which is something new in the province
- Regularise the presence of the church in the communities which improved relationship with other faith-based organisations
- Allow the communities to dialogue and enter into agreements with their local government leaders (barangays and municipalities/cities), to ultimately claim what is rightfully theirs – better, timely and quality delivery of aid and services.