Before the storm
Cash assistance based on forecasts is helping communities in the Philippines to prepare for shocks and recover more quickly
Whether fighting COVID-19 or a natural disaster, emergency preparedness can save lives. Utilised correctly, it can also play a vital role in empowering some of the poorest communities of the world.
For Lourdes Dilariarte of Pilar, of Sorsogon province in the Bicol region of the Philippines, typhoon Kammuri, known locally as Tisoy, was yet another disaster bent on testing her resilience.
“This is the first time I ever experienced a storm like this,” says the 70-year-old. “The wind lasted for so long, and it rained the entire night.” Pointing to her thighs, she adds, “the flood was up to here.” Her village is still littered with the debris the typhoon left in its wake.
Tisoy made landfall in Sorsogon in early December. Along its path, 65,000 houses were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of families were left in need of help and without power for days.
In the past, affected families had no choice but to wait for assistance to arrive after the event. This time, however, the people of Pilar were prepared. Residents like Lourdes had already received support from a UN agency well before the storm hit.
Cash assistance based on forecasts
Two weeks before Tisoy, knowing the region was entering its peak flood season, WFP Philippines dispatched cash to 1,000 vulnerable households. The action was triggered by the piloting of a system of providing cash-assistance called “forecast-based financing”. It does what its name suggests, helping people prepare for shocks around the corner.
The communities were happy.
“The number one thing is food. And then preparing the house for the strong wind, tying things down with ropes,” says Rody Rodriguez, another resident who received cash support from the WFP. “That’s what most of us do here.”
Tisoy was the 20th storm to hit the Philippines in 2019.
By acting early WFP, together with the provincial and municipal governments, is helping vulnerable households better prepare and recover more quickly in the face of such hazards.
The province of Sorsogon was selected based on reliable weather forecasts and seasonal data, which predicted that the first week of December would be filled with extreme weather events. A strong typhoon could easily wreak havoc, hitting the lives and livelihoods of local communities who are already living hand-to-mouth.
Pay-outs of PHP2,300 (US$45) — 10 days’ worth of the minimum daily wage in the target area — were provided to at-risk households. This is in line with Government guidelines for cash in emergencies. The households were selected out of a most vulnerable household list developed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
WFP has also set up a complaints-and-feedback mechanism to ensure the scheme is in touch with the needs of vulnerable people.
Counting the benefits
When asked how they spent the money, many locals say that they used it to buy food, before anything else.
“If we had not gotten the cash, we would spend our own meagre income buying food or would have to rely on the assistance from local government units,” says Lourdes.
Having already received assistance in advance, the communities’ need for assistance after the disaster was much reduced; a fact that is well noted by local officials.
“Based on our experience, no one gives assistance before a calamity. Usually, that happens after a calamity or event,” says Arnol Lista, Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer. “The amount may not be a lot, but for people in our municipality, it means they could use it to buy food and other necessities; get their houses ready before the storm, and move on with their lives much quicker after the storm.”
Currently, 10 provinces in the Philippines have established plans to institutionalise the forecast-based cash assistance in their respective areas. WFP is also supporting the institutionalisation of the FbF approach at the national level by supporting the Government of the Philippines with capacity strengthening.
These activities are funded generously by the government of Germany.
“A key element of forecast-based financing is that the allocation of resources is agreed in advance as a form of partnership between the government, WFP and other humanitarian partners,” explains Douglas Broderick, Country Director a.i. of WFP Philippines. “By combining FbF with climate-smart disaster risk reduction and response efforts, WFP can contribute to the long-term community resilience-building efforts of the country.”
Besides the Philippines, WFP’s forecast-based financing is also being implemented in Bangladesh and Nepal in Asia and the Pacific — the most disaster-prone region in the world.