European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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EU Aid Volunteer implements disaster prevention policy in the Philippines

Photo credit: Peter Caton/VSO

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan tore a path of destruction through the Philippines affecting over 14 million people. The homes of five million people were damaged or destroyed, and over 6 000 people lost their lives. VSO EU Aid volunteer, Efrath Silver, spent nine months as an institutional development adviser and policy analyst, supporting the Filipino government’s project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards). She was assisting national efforts to ensure communities have a clear plan to prepare for and prevent future devastation. 

Vishva Sodhi, Communications Advisor for VSO International

Plans exist but they aren’t being implemented 

Natural disasters happen frequently in the Philippines, and in many villages they particularly affect poor communities living in disaster-prone areas.

The Philippines has a very extensive national law on disaster risk reduction; it all looks good on paper, but one of the problems is the lack of skills, staff and funding to actually take the necessary measures in the communities where they are needed most,” explains VSO volunteer policy analyst Efrath Silver.

The national law on disaster preparedness covers a full range of measures, outlining what needs to happen from the national to the village level ahead of a natural disaster. This includes having a disaster contingency fund and mobilising volunteers trained for emergencies. 

The law is comprehensive but implementation is lacking and this is what I’m trying to figure out…why national policy on disaster prevention with lifesaving consequences is so difficult to put into practice.” 

Understanding local concerns 

Photo credit: Peter Caton/VSO

Photo credit: Peter Caton/VSO

Drawing on her professional background as a policy adviser in flood risk management, Efrath believes in the power of properly implemented disaster prevention measures, “Half of the Netherlands is flood prone but the last major flooding causing casualties was in 1953…the country is so prepared that most people don’t know they live in a flood prone area,” she remarks.

Her work has involved reviewing national disaster management policy and then visiting disaster-prone areas to find out how these policies are being put into practice at a local government level, and what barriers exist if they aren’t.

I explore how they can improve on existing plans and see if I can help them do a better job. I then come up with recommendations that can help Filipino government agencies as well as the local government implement the measures more effectively,” explains Efrath.  

The EU Aid Volunteers initiative gives thousands of Europeans the opportunity to engage in humanitarian aid around the world. To find out more about initiative, visit the EU Aid Volunteers page.