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Humanitarian groups say pre-disaster cash transfers for communities work better than post-typhoon relief

  • Pre-disaster cash transfer helps vulnerable Filipino families prepare adequately even before disaster strikes.
  • Use of parametric forecast allows local government and humanitarian actors better prepare by integrating hazards characteristics such as typhoon speed, damage possibilities, in local early warning system
  • B-READY program helps empower and protect women, children, persons with disabilities, elderly and other vulnerable groups to participate in decision making to reduce disaster impact.
  • Digital pre-disaster cash transfer helps promote cashless transactions, increase Filipinos’ access to financial accounts and helps them practice disaster preparedness actions.

A consortium of humanitarian actors hailed the success of a disaster preparedness program that not only aims to improve typhoon forecasting but also ensures that affected families have emergency funds even before a disaster struck.

In an online forum on Tuesday, Oxfam Philippines, Plan International, People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN), PayMaya, Global Parametrics and Salcedo Local Government shared insights from the 2-year run of the Building Resilient, Adaptive and Disaster Ready Communities Project (B-READY), which piloted in Salcedo, Eastern Samar, one of the areas devastated by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013.

In a video message, Mayor Melchor Mergal of Salcedo, Eastern Samar recalled how his town was overwhelmed when Typhoon Yolanda hit them.

As they worked to improve the town’s disaster risk reduction measures and implemented the B-READY program, Mergal said they realized the importance of anticipating what may happen.

“In time of disasters, time is of the essence. People cannot wait. That’s why anticipatory actions are necessary,” he said.

B-READY uses a smart data early warning system developed by Global Parametrics, which produces a precise forecast of the typhoon path. This information is then shared with the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council and is used to trigger the release of pre-emptive cash transfer via PayMaya’s digital platform.

B-READY enables target households to immediately and safely access cash assistance, which they can use to strengthen their houses, buy extra food, medicine or other needs, or to evacuate to a safer area. The project focused on areas most prone to typhoon hazards and households with women, children, persons with disability, elderly and other vulnerable groups living in poverty.

Toby Behrmann of Global Parametrics explained that their forecasting system monitors and analyzes typhoon tracks and speeds.

“When the wind speed reaches a certain point then we trigger,” he said, referring to the process of alerting Oxfam and partner organizations of the need to raise and send cash to affected communities.

“Cash before or just [prior to] an event currently will often be three times more valuable,” he said.

Behrmann said the forecasting index they are building can, in the future, be linked to insurance products to protect individuals and communities.

Oxfam Senior Manager for Programs and Partnerships Maria Theresa Abogado shared that when Typhoon Auring (international name: Dujuan) hit Salcedo in February 2021, the pre-disaster cash transfer from B-READY allowed residents to “stockpile food, medicines for their basic needs and even secure livelihood assets.”

The preparations needed for the roll-out of B-READY’s pre-disaster cash assistance in Salcedo, Eastern Samar was facilitated by the People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN).

PDRRN Executive Director Esteban Masagca said that while the COVID-19 lockdown made the last 12 months challenging for the program, a key driving force was the “high interest and strong participation of community members.”

Masagca said it was through the program that they saw how important financial literacy was in rolling out digital financial services in communities.

PayMaya Vice President and Director of Wallet Partnerships Kenneth Palacios said they are already working to increase the number of Smart Padala by PayMaya partner agents that serve as digital payment hubs amid these communities. This will help community members who are “given the pre-emptive cash (transfer) so they can purchase or use the money that they need to aid them in their evacuation or in moving towards other locations.”

“This is a very good example of how digital payments are being utilized for emergency response, relief, and rebuilding efforts. It is also in line with our support to the country’s goals of financial inclusion and digitalization of transactions,” he said.

“As we move towards their financial inclusion, we are all helping to create the cashless programs that the Bangko Sentral is trying to build on by 2023,” he said.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is targeting to convert 50% of all retail payment volume to cashless transactions and equip 70% of Filipino adults (from just 30% now) with at least basic financial accounts.

“B-READY is a part of that program that helps bring about all of this change,” Palacios said.

Plan International, which also did a gender risk assessment on the pilot areas, learned that only men and boys are usually trained or tapped by the family when preparing for typhoons.

To address this, they trained women and girls on what to do to help secure their families before a natural disaster.

Even transport groups in the communities were trained to assist members of the vulnerable sector, such as persons with disabilities and the elderly, during evacuations.

“Climate change is real. As disasters increase, threats to gender, safety and protection – especially of the vulnerable sector including children, especially girls, persons with disability and elderly  also increases,” said Plan International Provincial Supervisor Aida Loyola.

“We value this project as it aligns very clearly to our goal to have a just world that advances children’s rights and equality for girls.,” Plan International Country Director Ana Maria Locsin added.

Oxfam Philippines Country Director Lot Felizco said that for Phase 2 of B-READY, the consortium will help facilitate relevant policy reviews.

“For instance, Republic Act 10121 or the Philippines Disaster Risk Reduction Management Act prohibits local government, from using their Disaster Risk Reduction funds for pre-disaster cash transfers. Without the necessary amendments, local governments will not be able to use their disaster risk reduction funds before a storm hits their area,” she said.

She said there is also a need to improve data management for the country’s typhoon archive.

“B-READY implementation can include supporting the digitalization of national data to create an efficient digital filing system that includes information on floods and other natural disasters in the country,” Felizco said.

The organization also pledged encouraging the participation of more financial service providers and reaching out to the Insurance Commission and the Department of Finance “to explore the feasibility of pre-disaster insurance products as a means of funding disaster cash transfers.” \\

Contact information: 

Kristine Sabillo-Guerrero | Senior Officer for Media and Digital Influencing