Building inclusive innovations in disaster risk reduction


Words by

Where calamity hits, tragedy always follows. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, disasters wreaked an estimated P374.2 billion in damage from 1995 to 2015. Economic losses, including “damage to buildings and transportation networks, loss of revenue for businesses, and loss of crops,” was estimated at P139.7 billion.

What these numbers fail to quantify, however, is the devastation wrought among society’s most disadvantaged sectors, particularly the poor. Most risk management programs attempt to mitigate damage in broad strokes. And so, as with most social systems, the poor fall through the cracks.

To help shine a spotlight on community-centric disaster risk reduction (DRR) innovations, NGO consortium Tuklas Innovation Labs and international humanitarian agency CARE Philippines held Pasundayag: the Central and Southern Luzon Innovation Fair, last Feb 12 at the SM Sky Dome in Quezon City.

Inclusive investment is key

Pasundayag is the second of four innovation fairs taking place across the country, organized by Tuklas and CARE Philippines. During these events, winning proposals selected from among 266 nationwide pitch their projects to LGUs, NGOs, the academe, and the private sector for possible partnerships and investments.

According to Enan Melencio, consortium manager of Tuklas Innovation Labs, the 2017 World Risk Report ranked the Philippines as the third most disaster-prone country in the world. The computation for this ranking factored not only the frequency of disasters and proximity to disaster-prone areas (like the Pacific Ring of Fire) but also manmade variables such as disaster preparedness and response.

“We encouraged our innovators to treat the people in the communities as their co-implementers, co-designers, and co-testers,” said Melencio. “We wanted to prove here in the Philippines that innovation isn’t just for those who are well-off and highly-educated. Rather, the people in communities have the ability to innovate.”

By communities, for communities

Among the groups Melencio is referring to are the overlooked communities of Central and South Luzon. When the Tagbanuas of Palawan were struck by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, many of them were left struggling to provide food for their families.

To ensure that the Tagbanuas would not have to experience hunger again, the Samdhama Institute is pushing silipeten, a traditional food of the Tagbanuas which uses ingredients that can be found in their environment. Through workshops teaching and documenting traditional recipes, the organization is helping this community both make the most of their resources and preserve their culture.

Noticing a lack of appropriate learning materials for persons with disabilities (PWDs), the Foundation for TheseAbled Persons, Inc. (FTI) aims to include PWDs in the disaster risk reduction conversation. As part of their program, FTI wrote a Disability-Inclusive Risk Reduction Field Guide which tackles how PWDs should respond during calamities. They also prepared emergency go-bags with checklists that are unique to different mental and physical disabilities, which covers items such as assistive devices and PWD IDs.

Programs like FTI give PWDs the opportunity to assert their rights and needs as citizens. “People with disabilities should always be safe from disasters. So PWDs should be involved in any preparations for disasters,” said Bing Legaspi, a representative from FTI.

Different ways to help

While inclusive disaster risk reduction is a noble pursuit, without proper funding, that goal is dead in the water. Melencio explains that events like Pasundayag that pull together potential investors from both the private and public sectors are vital in ensuring these projects gain and maintain traction.

Beyond financial help, NGOs and academic institutions can partner with innovators to further develop their products and services. Organizations like LGUs can also request for workshops and trainings, providing platforms for DRR firms to promote their projects.

“Every one of us will need to do our part to ensure that we are prepared,” said Aarjan Dixit, Senior Consultant on Climate Change and Resilience of CARE Philippines. “And we need to make sure that we find innovative ways to reduce and prepare for these risks.”