UNited to Leave No One Behind Issue 4/December 2021
This issue starts with a call from UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Gustavo Gonzalez to show solidarity with Filipinos affected by Typhoon Rai (local name: Odette). Mr. Gonzalez has just come from a filed mission last December 22 and 23 to affected areas in the Caraga region and Surigao del Norte Province, where he saw devastation and despair. The typhoon brought torrential rains, violent winds and floods leaving hundreds of thousands of families homeless, without water, sanitation, food and livelihoods.
The humanitarian community in the Philippines has launched a Humanitarian Needs and Priorities Plan (HNP) amounting to US$107.2 million to respond to the needs of at least 530,000 people in the worst affected areas in CARAGA and Eastern Visayas following the onslaught of Typhoon Rai. With the Government leading response efforts, the HNP seeks to provide for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), life-saving food needs, emergency shelter, including the efficient management of evacuation camps, decentralized communication to restore access to islands and places which are currently cut off, and support for coordination by the government, among others.
This HNP carries with it a lesson he learned from a conversation with one of the highest officials in Surigao del Norte. When he asked what their priorities are, he said, “That is not the right question to ask because my answer would be, we need everything and right away. What you should ask is, what are the actions that can rapidly leverage the people’s resilience.”
The lesson is this: Relief support must be as “smart” as possible. While we cannot escape from clustering and standardizing emergency aid and providing pre-cooked “packages” of assistance, it is important we have a “smart” understanding of the diversity, specificity and timing of humanitarian needs.
“Smart” coordination is essential and, fortunately, the humanitarian community is making great steps towards such a holistic approach with the development of sophisticated assessment tools for better targeting and delivery of humanitarian services such as cash transfers and protection services for specific vulnerable groups. Beyond that, joint work between the humanitarian and development community is remarkably improving.
“Blind aid,” disconnected from context and delinked from recovery, will not be successful nor durable. And for this, knowing the community better, adapting our tools and frameworks to context and displaying an all-inclusive coordination approach will preserve the resilience of people and nourish their hope: something that cannot be monetized in a Humanitarian Response Plan.