BABAYEnihan Typhoon Odette Leave Indigenous Women Homeless
BABAYEnihan (women-to-women solidarity) Respond to Indigenous Women Affected by Typhoon Odette
Devastation of Typhoon Odette (Rai)
On December 16, 2020, Typhoon Odette (international name: Typhoon Rai), made its landfall in the Philippines and flattened five regions in Visayas and Mindanao: Caraga, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and MIMAROPA. The UN Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) assessed that the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Island, and Southern Leyte were the hardest hit by typhoon Odette.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) recorded 407 deaths caused by the typhoon. Over a thousand people were reported injured or ill. And at least 82 are still missing. More than 20,000 houses along Odette’s path were destroyed, and 34,000 were damaged. Families with houses made of light materials were hardest hit. According to the NDRRMC, 631,402 people have been displaced because of the typhoon.
The NRDMMC recorded that 1,140,118 families or 4,462,997 individuals were affected by Typhoon Odette. Meanwhile, the UN OCHA reported that nearly half or 49% of individuals in worst-hit areas were already living below the poverty line before the typhoon struck .
The cost of damage to agriculture was estimated to be nearly P13 billion by the Department of Agriculture (DA), affecting 396,585 farmers and fisherfolks. In Negros Occidental, 1.29 million broiler chickens were killed during the onslaught of Typhoon Odette. The DA also recorded major losses in rice and other crops, livestock, and fisheries.
On the Ground Reports from Indigenous Women
On December 17, 2021, LILAK immediately communicated with indigenous women partners in areas that were on Odette’s path. Reports from the ground painted a harrowing picture of devastation and loss. According to Haidy Ilaga, a Mamanwa leader from Santiago, Agusan del Norte, all of the houses, including the tribal hall, in their community were destroyed or damaged by the strong winds and heavy rains. To protect themselves, Haidy and her family took cover behind big rocks where their ancestors used to take shelter during typhoons.
Typhoon Odette left behind fallen trees over their houses, crumbled nipa huts, and chickens crushed by debris. Their crops - banana, hag-ot, and camote - which they planned to harvest were all gone. Other indigenous women experienced similar impacts - destroyed or damaged houses and agricultural losses - in varying degrees. The Ati Bukidnon in Negros Occidental suffered heavy damages – houses destroyed, crops flattened by the strong winds and rains. For the indigenous women in Agusan del Sur, their farms were flooded. The floods also poise health concerns, as their town, San Luis, is notorious for schistosomiasis.
They reported that they have received very little or no support at all from their local governments.
From reports on the ground, indigenous women and their families from Manobo, Mamanwa, Banwaon, and Talaandig from Mindanao, and Ati Bukidnon from Negros Occidental in Visayas, are urgently in need of food, medicines for diarrhea and schistosomiasis, vitamins, lighters, solar lamps, portable butane stoves, and pots and pans. They also need tools to repair their houses and agricultural support for their crops and livestock.
COVID-19 and Challenges in Responding to Communities
Responding to victims of Typhoon Odette proved to be difficult as the COVID-19 situation worsened with a new surge in cases. Many cities have been declared on Alert Level 3, limiting our movements. The UN OCHA reported the need for food, potable water, fuel, and medical supplies for communities affected by the typhoon. These supplies, however, need to be bought and transported from other provinces. The Typhoon Odette response requires logistics and communications that manage to address limited transportation, the risk of COVID-19, and poor communications (due to lack of electricity and broken cell towers).
While humanitarian organizations and local government units pour support in worst-hit areas such as Siargao Island, a popular tourist spot in the Philippines, and Dinagat Island, very limited support is being brought to other affected areas, such as Agusan del Sur, Antique, and Negros Occidental, where indigenous women reside.
“Sana maisip din nila kami, na mga katutubong tinamaan din ni Odette,” lamented Haidy. (“I hope that they also think of us, indigenous communities affected by Typhoon Odette.”)
BABAYEnihan (women-to-women solidarity) conducted a donation drive for indigenous women affected by Typhoon Odette – from the public through appeals in social media, as well as from network organizations, local and international. Generated monetary support was then distributed to indigenous women leaders who led the collection of data; and the purchasing, repacking, and distribution of relief packages in their communities.
The first round of BABAYEnihan Typhoon Odette Response, conducted from December 21-27, 2021, helped more than 375 indigenous women and families from the following communities:
- Ati Bukidnon – Brgy. Balicotog, Ilog, Negros Occidental
- Mamanwa – Santiago, Agusan del Norte
- Manobo – Brgy. Tudela, Trento, Agusan del Sur
- Manobo – Purok 8 Lubcon, Brgy. Mabahin, Cortes, Surigao del Sur
- Manobo, Banwaon, & Talaandig – Brgy. Nuevo Trabajo and Brgy. Doña Flavia, San Luis, Agusan del Sur
The initial relief contained food, hygiene kits, and for some communities – lighter, and portable stoves.
“Napasaya kahit paano ang aming pasko, kahit may Odette at COVID. Maraming salamat sa BABAYEnihan,” said Ka Zeny Mansiliohan, Manobo woman leader. (“Our Christmas was made happy, despite typhoon Odette and COVID. Thank you for the BABAYEnihan.”)
As the new year begins, more work and more support are needed. Houses are still needing to be repaired, and indigenous women are still seeking support as they try to recover from the losses of their crops, and vegetables.
Our BABAYEnihan continues.