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Surviving Odette with pre-typhoon cash aid

As a fisherfolk for most of his life, Pablito Abejuela is used to harsh weather shrinking his family’s earnings.

He heads out with his small boat in the morning to catch fish off the coast of Malobago in Dolores, Eastern Samar even when the waves have not been too friendly days before super typhoon Rai (local name: Odette) had hit the country.

“Fishing is my only livelihood. If I stop fishing just like now because of strong waves, we’ll be starving,” Abejuela said while shaking his head.

Pablito Abejuela prepares to go back to work after typhoon Odette tore a number of provinces in southern and central Philippines.

But the weather condition had affected his catch, putting Abejuela and other small-scale fishers—whose only livelihood is fishing—at risk.

“This means we need to borrow money, otherwise, I don’t know where we’ll get our daily needs,” the 67-year-old explained.

Malobago villager Leo Plata, 62, is also no stranger to Abejuela’s situation.

When typhoon Hagupit (local name: Ruby) hit the province in 2014, it made a significant impact on Plata, who relies on coconut farming to make a living.

Leo Plata collects coconut, which he will turn into copra.

“Life has become more difficult,” Plata said.

Abejuela and Plata were relieved when they learned they were recipients of the pre-disaster financial assistance of Oxfam Pilipinas’ Strengthening Harmonized Action for Disaster Risk Reduction, Preparedness and Early Recovery (SHARPER) project.

The project aims to ensure that communities affected by recurrent disasters in highly vulnerable areas, specifically in the provinces of Eastern Samar and Catanduanes, have enhanced capacities for disaster preparedness, response and recovery. SHARPER aims to reduce vulnerability and suffering of 32 disaster-prone communities by equipping them to co-lead disaster relief and recovery efforts in collaboration with local authorities.

After he had received the P1,870 cash aid as a SHARPER project participant, Abejuela headed to the nearest grocery store and bought food supplies and other essential needs. Based on the municipal expenditure cost, the amount can feed a household of five members in three to five days.

“This would help sustain us for a few more days while I can’t go fishing,” he said.

Meanwhile, Plata had bought rice and other food items, and nails to secure their roof from the impact of the typhoon.

Through digital cash transfers, Oxfam Pilipinas and SHARPER project partners—People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN); Sentro para sa Ikauunland ng katutubong Agham at Teknolohiya (SIKAT) Inc.; and Oxfam America—distributed about four million pesos to 2,650 families in 40 villages in Eastern Samar on December 13.

The cash aid distribution allows households to prioritize their urgent needs days before the projected landfall of super typhoon Rai.

In the afternoon of December 16, super typhoon Rai made its first landfall in Surigao del Norte, packing maximum sustained winds of up to 195 km per hour.

The typhoon has created havoc in the country, claiming more than 400 lives and affecting more than 10.2 million people in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

The province of Eastern Samar went for four days without electricity and houses made of light materials were damaged.

After the storm, Plata was able to visit his farm to check his crops and prepare coconuts for copra production.

Meanwhile, Abejuela prepared his fishing gears hoping the waves become calmer soon. 

“The cash assistance made us feel that someone cares about us,” he said.

Leo Plata carrying coconuts in a traditionally woven pair of baskets in the village of Malobago in Eastern Samar province’s Dolores town. (Photo: Roy Lagarde/Oxfam)

Leo Plata is a farmer from Malobago, Dolores, Eastern Samar. The 62-year-old had received a pre-disaster financial aid of Oxfam days before the projected impact of Typhoon Odette. (Photo: Roy Lagarde/Oxfam)

Pablito Abejuela, 67, is a fisher of Malobago, Dolores, Eastern Samar who had received pre-disaster cash assistance days before the projected impact of Typhoon Odette. (Photo: Roy Lagarde/Oxfam)

Pablito Abejuela receives his cash aid from Oxfam’s SHARPER project through digital cash transfer in Dolores, Eastern Samar on Dec. 14, 2021. (Photo: Roy Lagarde/Oxfam)