2 November 2018 Force 21 helps Communities secure access to safe drinking water, Typhoon Mangkhut

Force 21 through its partner Tactics SOG entrusted LifeStraw Community units to the Municipality of Itogon, Beguet after the wake of Typhoon Mangkhut. Evacuation centers were filled with families needing food and water and it was estimated that 5.7 million people were affected in the Philippines (as reported by the national government).

The typhoon triggered a landslide in Itogon and the damage was so severe that least 50 people were reported dead or missing and the demand for relief and basic services was high. Based on the assessment, recovery time will take more than a month depending on retrieval operations. It is hoped that these units will help provide safe drinking water to the people of Itogon while relief and rebuilding efforts is still underway.

Despite the help and relief efforts, governments and development organizations are still confronted with the biggest challenge of how to increase the resilience and preparedness of communities during and after a disaster.

Post-Disaster Relief: How Do Communities Secure Access to Safe Drinking Water After a Calamity?
The quickest answer would be that a lot of communities suffer from not being prepared. Safe drinking water access is one of the first things lost after a disaster.

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction reports that 90% of all natural disasters are water related. UN Water records that waterborne disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent and intense in the recent years, and these are exacerbated by disasters both natural and man-made. The impact is worsened by unplanned urbanization and degradation of the environment. Reducing risk and improving resilience is the key to maintaining access to water and sanitation services especially that climate-related disasters are frequent and unpredictable.

Disasters can disrupt and contaminate water supplies and water systems, causing increase in water turbidity or resulting to contamination from livestock waste, human sewage, chemicals, and other impurities. Temporary solutions can provide relief however for some, the damage is irreversible or takes a long time and a large amount of resources to fix.

The latest data from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) shows that Asia Pacific continues to be the world’s most disaster-prone areas. And in ADB’s list of countries with relatively high mortality and economic risk, the top three countries are Bangladesh, Vietnam, and the Philippines. When a community is poor, disaster risk reduction and resilience often takes a backseat. Thus when calamities come, basic services also fail.

What can we do?
Investing on preparedness is a good start. Water filtration systems such as LifeStraw can make a big difference. There are various hardware solutions on bringing access to potable water, which include micro and ultra filtration, atmospheric water generation, and desalination. However, these solutions also depend on crisis management systems, procedures, and community participation for maximum effectiveness. To achieve these, it takes the collaboration of government, private sector, and civic society.

Left alone, communities may continue to be vulnerable to disasters. A UNICEF study in 2014 cited that every dollar spent on preparedness yields at least twice saved during post-disaster relief, and 93% of money invested for preparedness accelerates humanitarian response by a week to almost two months. These savings in time and money pales in comparison to the number of lives saved by preparedness efforts.

What we all need to understand is that our biggest expense is life itself. Keeping the quality of human life, even in the face of disasters, should be in everybody’s agenda. To do this, it takes more than donations. We need to work together on sustainable solutions that can empower communities and provide impact for the long run.

Liezel Salera, Assistant Manager
Community Outreach and Development