The 2-year project on developing community-based disaster management that integrates primary health care and food security is ongoing in four urban poor communities in Cebu City, Philippines. It is implemented by the Visayas Primary Healthcare Services, Inc. (VPHCS) in collaboration with CADIS International and supported by the Italian Bishops Conference.

Project areas include the following informal settlements in Cebu City, namely: Sitio Lawis, Barangay Pasil, Sitio Tierra Dulce, Barangay Inayawan, Sitio Wang Yu, Barangay Mambaling, and Sitio Nangka Ville, Barangay Quiot.

All the project areas with a total population of 972 households are vulnerable to fires. Many houses are mostly made of wood, bamboo, hard plastics, and other light materials with galvanized iron sheets for roofing while only a few houses are made of cement. Housing units are situated just a couple meters apart from each other in congested environments, with only small alleys enough for one person to two persons to walk through. All the areas are also prone to floods due to poor drainage.

The project started with meetings of the project staff meeting with the members of the people’s organizations (PO) in June 2023. The meetings discussed about the project and signed a partnership agreement of cooperation and formulated a system of planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. All four PO enthusiastically expressed their support for the project.

The project unification was followed by meetings of the project staff and leaders of the four PO with the barangay councils of the four projects areas in June 2023 and the three parties in each barangay signed separate Memorandum of Agreement to cooperate in the project. Copies of a brochure on the project were distributed to the members of the PO and the barangay councilors.

VPHCS staff Crescenciana Labitad and Dr. Erlinda Posadas and Sitio Lawis Women’s Association official Angelie Marangga present the project during the legislative council session of Barangay Pasil on June 14, 2023

June and July saw the conduct of a one-day seminar on Community-based Disaster Management (CBDM) for each PO. Topics included definition of disaster, risk, vulnerability, and capacity, the different types of disasters, the sectors vulnerable to the effects of disasters, and the national and local disaster situation. The last topic was an orientation about CBDM, its history in the Philippines, objectives, characteristics and formation of Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC) in each area. Each seminar was attended by the officers and members of the PO.

The seminars on CBDM were followed by three-day seminars on Participatory Assessment on Climate and Disaster Risk (PACDR) attended by ten members of the Community Disaster Management Committee (CDMC) and five officers in each PO, as well as three members of the respective Barangay Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (BDRRM). A joint seminar was held for the PO in Sitio Nangka Ville and Sitio Wang Yu while a seminar was held for Sitio Lawis and the third seminar for Sitio Tierra Dulce.

PACDR training of the officers and disaster committees of the Sitio Nangka Ville Women’s Association and Sitio Wang Yu Women’s Association and members of the BDRRMC of Barangays Quiot and Mambaling held on June 14, 15, 16

The trainings enhanced awareness on the preventive actions and preparedness measures to be undertaken that can substantially reduce the damage caused by disasters. The participants also formulated their respective Participatory Disaster Risk Assessment consisting of tools such as community mapping, resource inventory, risk analysis, and hazard mapping.

Participants of the PACDR training of Sitio Nangka Ville and Sitio Wang Yu work on their community map in Manila papers

The trainings were followed by two trainings on Community- based Disaster Management (CBDM) Planning. A training was held for the PO in Sitio Nangka Ville and Sitio Wang Yu in August while another training was held for Sitio Tierra Dulce and Sitio Lawis in September. Each training lasted for three days.

Training on CBDM planning of Sitio Tierra Dulce and Sitio Lawis on September 1, 2, 3, 2023

Ten members of the CDMC and five officers of the PO, and five members of the barangay DRRMC worked on and formulated their respective CBDM plans. The plans consisted of activities including education, organizing and mobilization of the community members to reduce the hazard risks and mitigate disaster effects.

Workshop on drafting the CBDM plan by the Tierra Dulce Homeowners’ Association

After the seminars on disaster, each of the PO was given disaster kits consisting of flashlights, whistles, ropes, transistor radios, megaphone and other paraphernalia to be used by the CDMC in case of disasters.

With their trainings on disaster preparedness, the participants then reechoed the results of their trainings to the other members of their organizations and the plans were implemented. In Sitio Lawis, Pasil, a massive clean up drive of the river beside the sitio which can overflow and cause floods in the sitio was done by the members of the association. Coordination with the barangay officials of the four barangays by the women’s organizations to regularize the collection of household garbage was also done to minimize the wanton dumping of garbage that would clog up the drainage in the houses and prevent flooding. There was information dissemination drive in the communities by the women’s organizations regarding the hazards that give risks for causing fires such as using oil lamps, candles, cellphone phone chargers and electric fans connected to and powered by improvised electrical wires, as well as massive education drive on the common fire hazards and fire safety precautions and practices for fire prevention. There was widespread cooperation among the residents in the four communities.

Furthermore, due to lobbying of the Sitio Nangka Ville Women’s Association with their local government unit, the Quiot barangay council donated three fire extinguishers to the community which were placed in strategically located houses of three members of the association. They were also taught by the BDRRM firefighters how to use the equipment.

This coming new year, the BDRRM will conduct community fire drills.

Disasters inevitably have health emergencies and communities need to cope with these emergencies together with the harsh effects in the aftermath of a fire or a typhoon or a landslide. Community health workers need to be trained on first aid.

Furthermore, good health of the people needs to be maintained that they shall not get sick when disasters occur, or when they get sick, they need to have proper health care which many cannot afford to have due to financial constraints, so that there is also the need to empower the community in terms of primary health care.

Thus, basic health skills trainings for members of the health committee of the four women’s associations were conducted in December 2023. In each of the two trainings lasting for three days per training and participated in by two associations, the community health workers (CHW) were trained on the prevention of illness, promotion of health and selective curative care, that is, on primary health care in the community level. Topics included the Philippine health care system, orientation on community-based health program (CBHP), home remedies for common illnesses using water therapy, first aid, control of acute respiratory infections and diarrheal diseases among children, hypertension and diabetes.

Planning for the health activities in the communities was also done in the last day of the training. They consisted of the conduct of blood pressure taking for hypertension screening and monitoring, health education on common illnesses and their home remedies, herbal medicine making, cupping therapy, and home visitations by the trained CHWs of sick children with cough and diarrhea. The health skills training ended with the distribution of health kits consisting of sphygmomanometers, stethoscopes, weighing scales, thermometers, essential medicines, first aid supplies and other basic health supplies.

Basic health skills training of Tierra Dulce Homeowners’ Association and Sitio Lawis Women’s Association on December 15, 16, 17, 2023

The second year of the project will promote food security among the residents through development of livelihood programs in the communities. Their existing impoverished state and being deprived of savings of money for emergency use gravely deters them to cope with the extreme need for food after a disaster while waiting for outside relief assistance. Thus, the need for community livelihood projects to earn them additional income.
With community organizing as the core element of the project supplemented by capacity building and strengthening, we hope that the communities will be empowered to gather their collective strength, raise their one voice on the issues and demands that affect their daily lives, work collectively to address the disaster hazards and other common concerns in their communities, and successfully lobby with the government agencies to effect changes in their lives.

Lastly, the strong coordination with the barangay councils of the respective barangays particularly with the barangay DRRMC will ensure the sustainability of the project when it ends on April 2025.