Kicking and Screaming!!! This was how we entered the field of Humanitarian Response in 2009……. now a few years later A Single Drop for Safe Water (ASDSW) as part of the Humanitarian Response Consortium (HRC) has just completed one of the largest responses to Tropical Storm Sendong.
On the evening of 16 December, heavy rains caused flash flooding that coursed through the cities of Iligan and Cagayan De Oro in Northern Mindanao, Philippines. Over 1,200 people died and 51,000 houses were partially or totally damaged as a wave of fast moving water coursed through the homes of our most vulnerable and under-served urban communities, taking lives, destroying; homes, livelihoods and infrastructure.
What happened over the next 3 months was a tribute to an idea. “That large responses can be locally driven and be extremely successful”. It saw an evolution of a way of working where young dedicated people in 4 organizations came together to provide not just relief but to rebuild lives while changing the way that Humanitarian Response can be done. We as a team not just stretched the envelope but tore the sucker wide open and challenged the status quo.
What we found was that:
- You can treat half a million liters of crap with a pit, hydrated lime and an irrigation pump.
- You can work with government and provide assistance to repair a city water system and get it operating before money arrives from central government.
- You can build markets at the camp site so to provide easy market access instead of having people use their money on fare going to distant markets.
- Cash For Work for IDP’s (Internally Displaced People) not only puts money back into the local market but is actually an efficient way to build on site.
- The cluster approach of agencies working together can work
- You can facilitate discussions between IDP’s and government to discuss the future and raise protection issues (that it irritated some agencies made it even more important)
- You can blow up a 10,000 liter water bladder
In the end the most important thing we figured out was that 40 individuals from 4 organizations with resources could significantly improve the lives of over 100,000 people, not just meeting basic needs but providing opportunities for people to take control and rebuild their own lives.
None of the interventions were technically innovative, but they were successful because of good old fashioned brainstorming, negotiation, risk-taking, persistence and belief in what was being done.
So what’s my point…. well 3 years ago we didn’t want to do this work because the way it was done harmed development….but we took the opportunity to make a change and we grabbed it with both hands….. the results are best expressed by others:
Mr Arman Ganzan “As a survivor of the flash flood, I realize that is it not about begging and receiving donations from the donors but finding a job that will support my family’s needs and pay for our daily expenses”.
Mr John Vidal Montilla “The Sendong tragedy should not be an excuse to feel hopeless. Rather, it should be a challenge to all victims to embrace life more resolutely. Specifically, I learned to value other people. Now, I am confident in dealing with them especially in questions relating to their livelihood. Helping them is not a waste of time rather it is a self-fulfillment.”
Mrs Emmelie Cinco “I was also able to join HRC – WASH seminar where I learned how to become a good leader, how to be strong and use humor in situations, and be an honest model to the citizens. Even though I did not become one of the WASH committee members, I was able to help organize our community in taking turns cleaning our areas and teaching them how to do so. Even though others were not cooperative, we, the leaders did not mind them; instead, we tried to change their views about having a better environment while coordinating with the WASH committee on the implementation of hygiene and sanitation.”
Mrs Dulcesima Rosal Fiel “The opportunity to speak out and be listened to would not be possible without the encouragement and opportunity provided by HRC-Oxfam. After my election as Camp Leader, HRC-Oxfam invited me to different seminars and trainings, which were very informative. I have learned about our rights as IDPs. From the trainings and through their examples, they have strengthened me as a leader, especially as a woman leader. They equipped me with knowledge and then provided me with support. Now, even with my soft voice, I am no longer afraid to speak out. As the IDP Camp Leader, it was expected of me to represent them. Most of all, as a woman leader, I am already empowered to do so.”
A Single Drop for Safe Water Inc.
Echoing Green fellow 2007