Monday, December 26, 2011

HABITAT FOR HUMANITY Disaster response program for the victims of Typhoon Pedring

Last September 2011, Metro Manila and some parts of Central Luzon experienced another dose of destruction brought about by Tropical Storm Pedring which left areas along the western shoreline of Manila like Baseco, Malabon, Navotas, Caloocan, and some parts of the Bulacan Province, flooded with up to chest-high water and hundreds of families homeless. Baseco Compound, a reclaimed area measuring 56 hectares and inhabited by more than 12,000 families, was not spared from the havoc caused by the typhoon.


A few years ago, in 2004, Baseco experienced a massive fire that practically wiped-out all the informal resettlement houses, leaving the hectares of marshland areas a barren wasteland and thousands of families living in shanties homeless. But a year after, a concerted effort of the local government and NGOs like Habitat for Humanity and Gawad Kalinga, gradually transformed a big portion of Baseco into a clean, safe, and highly organized urban low-cost housing community. Kuya Lito, one of the community team leaders and a Habitat for Humanity housing recipient shares, “The condition of our community was difficult when typhoon Pedring came, but things are a lot better now because our houses were built to withstand yearly typhoons”.


Unfortunately, not all families living in Baseco share Kuya Lito’s comfort. They’re the ones living in the outskirts and outside of the low-cost housing village known as Old Site Block 9, an informal resettlement area. About 5,000 families squat in this underdeveloped area where there are no decent roads, no sewerage system, and where houses are built using makeshift shelter materials. Small shanties with dimensions measuring 8ft x 9ft are built with patches of scrap boards, second hand lumber, and plastic tarpaulins for roofs are considered homes by most of the families living there. When Typhoon Pedring came, hundreds of these houses were easily blown away and families had no choice but to evacuate to the nearest elementary school.


The Disaster Response Program of Habitat for Humanity heeded the cries of the settlers in Baseco and conducted a relief and rehabilitation program to once again help rebuild homes that were lost in the calamity. With the help of Habitat’s corporate donors such as JP Morgan and Harvest Aid Organization Foundation, the Disaster Response Team headed by Mr. Dabs Liban and with the cooperative efforts of the community leaders - Kabalikat, they distributed Shelter Repair Kits amounting to P5,000 each to the affected community. 


The kits consist of assorted slabs of good lumber to replace the foundation beams that hold the houses together, galvanized iron roofing to replace the plastic tarpaulin makeshift covers, sturdy Hardiflex ply boards for more durable walling, and even basic tools such as a wood saw, hammer, and screw drivers and nails. The shelter kits are sufficient enough to help families fix their homes.


The Kabalikat Home Owners Association is a Peoples Organization composed of the local town folk of Baseco who served as volunteer workers for the project. Prior to the distribution, Kabalikat identified the families that will receive the shelter kits. Each was given a written agreement and certification duly singed by Habitat, the Kabalikat president, and a family representative to use the kits solely for house repairs and not for other purposes. According to Kuya Gerogie, the president of Kabalikat, the written agreement was necessary to prevent people from selling the materials as this happened in previous relief distributions in the past.


All the kits were organized and placed all over the covered court. Families were given tag numbers for an orderly distribution. Each representative of the recipient families brought with them hired tricycles as transport to help them haul the materials.


The distribution of the kits lasted for half a day and the Habitat team is already making preparations for the next batch of families to be given assistance. Habitat for Humanity is targeting 1,000 families this year but, according to Mr. Boyet Dalipat, a Habitat for Humanity Disaster Relief staff, “Of course, the shelter kits are not the ultimate solution but a full low-cost housing development much like the one we already have here in Habitat Village and we can only do that if more donors will partner with us in making our vision for Baseco a reality. For now, we will continue doing the shelter kit distribution because this is what the community needs at this point in time.”


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