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Philippines: Living on the edge

4 December 2014

‘We’re vulnerable here. Our homes are made of light materials. There are no natural barriers such as mountains or hills to protect us,’ explains Racky. ‘Some areas are exposed to the sea and the threat of storm surges.’

29-year-old Racky lives with his wife and four children on the remote island of Biri, one of the most precarious places to live in Northern Samar.

Prone to storm surges and susceptible to landslides, the dangers of living on the island are stark.

‘I’m always nervous when a typhoon approaches,’ says Racky. ‘I worry that something may happen to us.’

Racky and his daughter Darlene

Racky, pictured with his daughter, Darlene, says: 'I always ask myself, “What if I can’t fulfil my duties?”’ Photo credit: Christian Aid/Ross Hemingway

Prepared for the worst

It’s not only his family Racky is concerned about.  ‘I’m responsible for the safety of the community,’ he explains.

Thanks to support from our partner, CERD, communities are becoming more prepared to face emergencies like Typhoon Haiyan.

First, residents choose a group of keen and committed community leaders.

These volunteers help to organise the community, ensuring people know what to do, where to go and what to take with them in the event of an emergency.

It’s all about making households as safe as possible when a typhoon hits.

Racky explains: ‘The training taught us about the hazards we face and what we could do to reduce our vulnerability.

'We identified our priorities together. The community learned so much when we took part in the evacuation drills.’

Community spirit

Thanks to the project, households now know the quickest and safest escape routes to designated evacuation shelters.

Racky's job is to relay information received from a radio - supplied by CERD - and raise the alarm when it’s time for people to evacuate.

He ensures residents receive clear instructions via hoisted flags and announcements over loudspeaker.

Racky explains: ‘Before, when a typhoon struck, it was every man for himself. There was no community spirit. 

‘Now the community is organised and has a plan.

'People are taking it seriously and recognise the importance of being safe. We share the responsibility.’

Climate change and saving lives

People who are poor or vulnerable are often hardest hit by disasters because they have little option but to live in areas prone to hazards.

The struggle to contend with the impact of extreme weather continues in Biri, but thanks to CERD and people like Racky, its residents are now better prepared. 

Racky says: ‘Regardless of the strength of the typhoon, we always follow the evacuation plans. Doing this will save lives.’

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