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Building disaster resilient communities in informal settlements in Cebu City

2024-04-12 12:10


Progetti, Resilienza,

Building disaster resilient communities in informal settlements in Cebu City

Funded by CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference), the 24-month project will benefit 972 families in four areas (barangays) of Cebu City: Pasil, Inayawan, Mambaling


Funded by CEI (Italian Episcopal Conference), the 24-month project will benefit 972 families in four areas (barangays) of Cebu City: Pasil, Inayawan, Mambaling and Quiot Pardo.

The Philippines is considered one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world due to its hazardous location, geological features, dangerous proximity to the Pacific Ring of Fire, and a poor and highly at-risk population, impoverished socially, economically and in terms of general public health.

Metro Cebu is the second largest region in terms of economic growth in the entire country. With a total population of 964,169 (PSA, 2020), Cebu City's population density is estimated at 3,061 inhabitants per square kilometre. The city's population is steadily growing at high rates, as the transition from agriculture to industry has resulted in a substantial influx of rural dwellers. Jobs and various sources of income in urban agglomerations naturally attract people from rural areas, where job opportunities and sources of income are scarce and limited.

Cebu's rapid population growth and urbanisation make it vulnerable to multiple types of threats and disaster risk issues. The dense concentration of communities in a particular area increases the degree of vulnerability to disasters and exponentially multiplies the extent of damage and disruption caused by any type of disaster. In addition, social welfare services, infrastructure construction, job creation, labour market growth and industrialisation fail to keep pace with the high levels and increasing rates of urban population growth, density, immigration and movement.

The urban population of low-income workers, poor residents and informal migrants - who make up the majority of Cebu City's human population - reside in unsafe areas. In general, these communities are often located in areas of high risk exposure and frequently affected by almost all classes of disasters.

One of the major disasters faced by the people of Cebu City is the control and extinguishment of fires and the response to emergencies involving life, property and the environment resulting from fires. Fires often affect urban areas where poor city dwellers live. Other significant risks of causing fires include the use of oil lamps, candles, mobile phone chargers and electric fans connected to and powered by improvised electric cables. Informal settlements usually lack basic power outlets or simply cannot afford the services offered by the companies or cooperatives that provide electricity.

During Typhoon Odette on 16 December 2021, houses built with lightweight materials such as plywood, wooden planks, plastic sheets, amakan (dried palm leaves woven into sheets) and old rusty iron sheets for roofs were easily damaged by the strong winds. Power and communication lines were destroyed and the water supply, which depended on electricity, became very limited. Many badly damaged shops and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises without generators had to close down. Affected families were already living in difficult situations even before the arrival of the typhoon, bearing the brunt of the economic hardship caused by the pandemic, and their conditions worsened even more after the unexpected fury of nature. Government aid was insufficient and did not meet the basic needs of all the thousands of affected families.

The four urban poor settlers in the project areas are generally in economic distress and spend much of their time selling their labour, earning subsistence wages and taking on debts to make ends meet and ensure they have enough to survive and live another day. With inflation and the rising tax burden, prices of basic necessities have risen alarmingly.

The project was conceived together with the leaders of the Panaghugpong sa mga Kabus nga Taga-Dakbayan sa Sugbo, which organised the people's organisations in the four project areas and continues to work with the leaders of these organisations in an attempt to improve their living conditions. To build disaster-resistant communities, residents must be empowered to cope with the negative effects of natural hazards. To generate preparedness and response in the population, a community-based disaster preparedness plan (CBDP) must be developed.

Project goals
By the end of 2025, the population of the four poor urban communities will have developed resilience in disaster management.

The project aims to achieve the following objectives:
1. Formation of community disaster management committees in the four communities, composed of 15 members for each committee - health committee and livelihood committee.
2. Development of community profiles of the communities including their physical, administrative, geographical, demographic, socio-economic and infrastructural characteristics.
3. Community resource inventories are conducted that identify locally available resources that can be harnessed and enhanced for disaster preparedness and response.
4. Risk analyses and hazard maps that identify vulnerable and at-risk areas based on previous experience, the most vulnerable groups of people, such as the elderly, disabled, pregnant women, widows and young children, livestock, weak structures, standing crops and livelihoods.
5. Each community develops a community-based disaster preparedness plan (CBDP) that contains the main components of the CBDP.
6. Two mock drills are conducted to test the preparedness of the population to handle disasters.

7. An emergency list is prepared for each area, including telephone numbers and contact details of all government agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and management, details of local NGOs, contact details and names of all task force members, trained manpower and resource persons.
8. Coordination shall be established between the people's organisations and their respective Barangay Committees for disaster risk reduction and management in all activities.
9. Promotion of food security for residents through livelihood programmes established in each community based on residents' interests, profitability and availability of market produce.

1. A series of three training courses on the Community-Based Disaster Management (CBDM) Programme to be followed by the Community Disaster Management Committee.
2. Training for health committees on first aid, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), trauma counselling and stress management.
3. Organisation of simulated disaster drills that enable the population to use the identified safe route and get out of their homes within 3-4 minutes to reach open spaces identified on community maps.
4. Meetings with disaster risk reduction and management committees and government agencies involved in disaster management, to avail of their technical assistance in training people, disaster simulation exercises and other resources they can provide to the project, particularly in developing measures to address identified hazards and dangerous practices.
5. Training for livelihood committees.
6. Community mobilisations to develop measures to address vulnerable and at-risk areas, as well as practices that make residents prone to disasters, particularly fires and floods.

Project Results
1. Community Disaster Management Committees in each community, properly trained, to lead the community-based disaster management programme in their area.
2. Community-based preparedness plan in each community containing community profile, resource inventory, risk map and list of emergencies.
3. Health committee formed in each community, comprising 15 members each.
4. Two successful mock drills in each community.
5. Technical assistance provided by the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Committee in each barangay and government agencies involved in disaster management.
6. Actions to inform and mobilise the population to address hazards and dangerous practices, such as cleaning up litter in rivers that cause flooding, fire precautions and fire prevention practices.
7. Livelihood programmes to promote food security for residents.

Project 567/2022 ‘Promoting Disaster Resilient Communities in Cebu’ is implemented with the contribution of 8xmille funds to the Catholic Church. Please remember to also donate your 8xmille to the Catholic Church. 


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