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The Philippines Prepares for Next Disaster

Typhoon Haiyan survivors help carry USAID donated food after a U.S. military helicopter unloaded it in the destroyed town of Guiuan, Philippines on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.
Typhoon Haiyan survivors help carry USAID donated food after a U.S. military helicopter unloaded it in the destroyed town of Guiuan, Philippines on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013.
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The Philippines – a nation of about 7,100 islands – is in a prime spot for natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclones.

The Philippines was second on the list of 171 countries with a high risk from natural disasters, according to the 2014 World Risk Index. The South Pacific island nation Vanuatu was first.

That is why the nation regularly hosts international conferences to talk about ways to reduce the effects of disasters.

This week, ministers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group met in Cebu. They talked about maintaining energy when disaster strikes.

In Manila, disaster risk managers discussed how to deal with food supply in emergencies.

Parveen Agrawal is the Philippine Country Director of The World Food Program (WFP). He said that, in the Philippines, preventing hunger is the most important need during a crisis.

Mr. Agrawal talked with VOA.

“If you look at Pablo (Typhoon Bopha), if you look at before, Ondoy (Tropical Storm Ketsana), you look at other crises that have hit the country, Haiyan (super typhoon); the first need is food to stabilize, to get lives back in order.”

Preparation Starts With Prediction

For the past four years, USAID, a United States government development assistance agency, has been giving the World Food Program $5 million each year. The WFP uses the fund to help countries prepare for disasters.

Some projects help predict weather events. This information is used to help the countries set aside food supplies before the emergencies.

The WFP’s programs also help plan for getting food to large numbers of people who suddenly have nothing to eat.

Machines to speed response

In the aftermath of Super Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, hundreds of volunteers hand-packed tens of thousands of food care packages. They went out to more than a hundred thousand families per day across the central Philippines.

The WFP has helped pay for a mechanized system that can pack food in an emergency. The system can prepare up to 50,000 packages a day. Officials said this amount would be very helpful in a disaster like typhoon Haiyan.

The typhoon hit the central Philippines with 315 kilometer per hour winds and five meter high storm surges. It left more than 7,300 people dead or missing. Days after it struck, communications and transportation links remained broken. Neither workers nor food could get to those most in need.

Corazon Soliman is Philippine Social Welfare and Development Secretary. She said her office has simplified how it handles food distribution. It has trained quick-response teams that could move quickly to disaster areas. They can set up communication methods. She said sharing the experiences from past disasters can help prepare for future ones.

U.S. Energy Deputy Secretary Liz Sherwood-Randall said governments need to work with the private sector. By practicing, they can guess, or troubleshoot, what problems might be.

She told VOA that countries like the Philippines should take a careful look at its energy infrastructure. That will help them find ways to prevent or shorten the times power is lost.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Simone Orendain wrote this story for VOA News. Jill Robbins adapted it for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

stabilizev. to make (something) steady

mechanizev. to change (a process or an activity) so that it is done with machines instead of by people or animals

surgen. a large wave of water

response n. something that is done as a reaction to something else

troubleshoot – v. solve serious problems before they happen

infrastructuren. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for a country, region, or organization to function properly

Now it’s your turn. How does your local government prepare for natural disasters? Do you feel that you are ready to react in case of a disaster?