Staying safe when disaster strikes


More than 3,000 children and 200 families in the Philippines’ province of Eastern Samar are now better prepared for the next natural disaster to hit the country, thanks to recent training provided by Viva and our partner network, PCMN.

Around 20 typhoons affect the Philippines each year and, following the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan three years ago, we have been running a rehabilitation programme to ensure vulnerable communities in Eastern Samar are well equipped when disaster strikes.

By working together, PCMN’s member churches and organisations have been effective in sharing information and resources with each other, and identifying, reaching and supporting children and families in most need of protection.

During the second half of last year, the network held a series of events.

A total of 3,255 children took part in camps organised by 11 organisations in three locations. Here, through a simple teaching programme, including pictures, songs and dances, the children learnt how to become better prepared to take care of themselves and others in the event of a typhoon, and when there is fire, flood or earthquake too. Songs were developed by young people with actions so that the children would easily remember them.

One child supported by the training is Arvin – and through it his life has begun to turn around. Abandoned by his mother and cared for by his grandmother, he used to scavenge for food and goods that his family could sell. He joined a local camp and learned about how to stay safe in disaster situations.

Not only that, the church who hosted the camp – a member of the PCMN network – is now helping in other areas of Arvin’s life: through mentoring and help with attending school.

Three ‘training of trainers’ workshops were held, attended by 103 staff and volunteers from 35 organisations. One leader, Rose, was both excited to take part but also anxious about teaching others in the community. She said: “The good thing is that we work as a team. The pressure is shared and we have the support of one another.” Rose learned a lot about the correct ways to be prepared for disaster, and how to teach children through lesson plans and songs.

PCMN has also:

  • helped 200 families to be strengthened, with disaster preparedness and resiliency.
  • trained disaster chaplains, who have since formed a committee and an action plan.
  • distributed 50 medical packs to church centres – ready in case of a disaster.
  • established six local network Disaster Preparedness Action Groups, each trained to conduct Child Friendly Spaces and the Operation SAFE programme for children.

Significantly, last May, President Aquino signed the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. The first of its kind in Asia, the act calls for a structural approach to ensuring that children are well-prepared, kept safe and that their voices are heard in disasters and emergencies. It also seeks to protect children against violence and trafficking, and improve systems for tracing and reuniting children with their families.

This law underlines the importance and relevance PCMN’s work in its child-focused disaster risk reduction camps, and the network is seeking to explore sustainable ways of working with the government in this area going forward.

The hope is that, by thousands of children and families being prepared for disaster, more lives will be saved the next time one arrives.