In the Face of Calamities

Children with disabilities in the Philippines—there are 5.1 million of them to date—are the most vulnerable if there happen to be a calamity or an emergency in the country. They wouldn’t be able to flee; around 1.5 million need assistive devices. They wouldn’t be able to go back to school immediately and they wouldn’t be able to subsist in the sanitation conditions in evacuation centers.1

So, Dr. Renato Solidum Jr., Undersecretary for Disaster Risk Reduction of the Department of Science and Technology, proposed to carry out continuing education and preparation on disaster management in all levels especially those in the most vulnerable groups. He encouraged developing “disaster imagination” to bring about people’s resolve to prepare for any disaster and “disaster preparedness” as a way a life for every Filipino.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council–Office of Civil Defense also endorsed “Lahat Handa,” a training manual that promotes the rights and capacities of children, youth, older people and PWDS.

The ramifications of a typhoon, flood, or fire may linger, said Alex Ghenis of the Berkeley, California-based World Institute on Disability. These may disrupt access to caregivers, assistive devices and medical supplies. A person with a mobility impairment might be less able to escape a storm on their own while a person with a visual or hearing impairment might not receive appropriate evacuation notices. PWDs, therefore, even they have mostly been ignored in scientific literature and policy, will be the most vulnerable during calamities because of falling buildings and environmental pollution.

Good thing, someone has thought of sign language gestures for words like typhoon, storm surge and signal numbers in 2013. Some waterside villages in Tacloban have also planned to raise flags and made announcements over megaphones to alert the deaf and the visually impaired, respectively.

The PWD Forum also hopes that closed captioning will be added to television broadcasts soon. For, as of now, research director Perpi Tiongson of the Oscar M. Lopez Center in Manila has observed that the standard version of Filipino sign language isn’t required to be taught at schools for the deaf yet.

“Some of the children with disabilities wouldn’t be able to duck, cover and hold under tables, so they should identify the safest area in the room, where no debris would fall on them. If they use wheelchairs, they should fix it to ensure stability, and everyone should be informed of their buildings’ respective evacuation routes. They should also pinpoint the safe parts of a building in case of an earthquake.” ~ Dr. Renato Solidum Jr.

1This was noted by Lotta Sylwander, country representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), during the “Emergency Preparedness Forum for Children and Youth with Disabilities.”

2Typhoons could form if the temperature is above 280C (82.40F).

3The figure was from a report of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Notes:

  • Among of the natural disasters that had happened in the Philippines are the Bohol earthquake, (October 15, 2013), Typhoon Bopha (December 3, 2012), Pantukan landslide (January 5, 2012), Tropical Storm Washi (December 2011), Typhoon Fengshen (June 20-23, 2008), Tropical Cyclone Durian (November 25, 2006), Guinsaugon landslide (February 17, 2006), and Tropical Depression Winnie (November 2004).
  • The Office of the Civil Defense (OCD) in Western Visayas headed by Melissa Banias of the Capability Building Section has trained more or less 700 individuals from the 14 vulnerable or basic sectors that were identified by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) on the Philippine DRRM system, different kinds of natural and human-induced hazards, and DRRM applications. They are composed of volunteer groups, persons with disability, farmers, fisherfolk, rebel returnees, and Indigenous Peoples (IP), among others.
  • The Philippines is prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons, landslides, storms, cyclones, and depressions simply because it is located just above the equator, where the country faces the western Pacific waters with 280C (82.40F) temperature2. Its hillsides are denuded of forests and it rests on the so-called volcano Ring of Fire.

A lot of Filipinos live on coastal islands, too. The Super Typhoon Haiyan reached 23 feet (7 meters) upon its surge. It rolled over the low-lying parts of Leyte, causing death to more than 10,000 people3.

Video taken from the YouTube Channel of Edison Jared

UPDATE (October 2, 2018): On average, more than 1,000 lives are lost every year in the Philippines, with typhoons accounting for 74 percent of the fatalities, 62 percent of the total damages, and 70 percent of agricultural damages, according to the World Bank.

Source: GMA News Online

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