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Picking up the Pieces: Bayanihan to Rebuild Communities after Typhoon Odette

Since the onslaught of Typhoon Odette, the Australian Government and UN World Food Programme (WFP) have supported about 10,000 people, or 2,033 households in Bohol province alone, with activities designed to meet immediate food gaps through cash, and give opportunities to communities in the affected areas to work together in cleaning and repairing damaged structures. 

Typhoon Odette (internationally known as Typhoon Rai) was the strongest typhoon to hit the Philippines in 2021.  It swept through 11 of the country’s 17 regions, leaving behind a trail of flattened homes, damaged farms, and other food sources, and severely affecting 12 million people’s lives and livelihoods.

“In the spirit of ‘bayanihan’, community members participating in these early recovery efforts were given ten days to work on a project.  Afterwards, they are given cash assistance which they can use to buy food and other essential needs,” explained Alice Follosco, who oversaw Australia and WFP’s Typhoon Odette response in Bohol. 

“Community members earn while contributing to the creation or rehabilitation of community assets towards early recovery and food security,” she added. 

The collective efforts of the families in Bohol resulted in the restoration of 10 hectares of mangroves, repair of three kilometres of coastal roads, and planting of 250 neem and mahogany trees along the barangays’ main road.  Additionally, some of the families also organized community gardens in their neighbourhood and dug compost pits to make organic fertilizer.

“I am very grateful for this support.  I helped my community while earning the money I needed to repair my boat. Now I can go fishing again,” said 37 year-old Hilo Dondon of Barangay Mahanay who took part in cleaning and restoring mangroves damaged by Typhoon Odette. 

“Mangroves are important to us fishermen because they sustain the fish and other seafood which are a source of income for us,” added Mr. Dondon.  

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Hilo Dondon on his boat

“The communities have become so clean and green and the reminders of the damages of the typhoon have been removed. More importantly, those who received assistance for their contributions are keen on sustaining these improvements and initiating regular community-led clean-ups,” said Ms Follosco.

Beyond Bohol, the Australian Government and WFP also supported crucial early recovery efforts in Southern Leyte, another province badly hit by Typhoon Odette.

“With Australia’s support, we were able to assist 2,030 households in 39 barangays across Limasawa, Malitbog, Padre Burgos, and St. Bernard municipalities,” said WFP’s Mark Cervantes. Mr. Cervantes spent eight months in Southern Leyte overseeing the operation there and ensuring timely delivery of emergency and early recovery response.

The activities included coconut and banana farming intercropped with sweet potatoes, communal and backyard gardens, paddled boat repair, and repair of damaged houses or construction of new ones.

Like in Bohol, community members participating in early recovery efforts had ten days to work on an activity for which they received cash assistance of PHP 2,900.

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WFP staff consulting with members of a community in Southern Leyte in preparation for the launch of an early recovery response

Things changed for 60-year-old Nelda Ampetin of Barangay Sto. Rosario in Padre Burgos, when she was selected to participate in WFP’s backyard garden project.

“I learned how to grow other types of vegetables like eggplant and okra. Before, I only planted string beans,” said Ms. Ampetin who shares the vegetables she harvests with her children and neighbours.

“I am truly grateful to the Australian Government and WFP for helping us recover from Typhoon Odette. While we are still trying to forget the devastating experience my family had to endure, we find solace in community gardening, knowing that we are in on our way to recovery,” added Ms. Ampetin.

Australia stands with the Philippines, especially in the aftermath of disasters and emergencies. In the spirit of bayanihan, we work with partners like UN World Food Programme, to help local communities prepare for and respond to the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

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