On Friday Dec. 16, 2011, tropical storm Washi brought 10 hours of torrential rains that triggered disastrous flash flooding across Mindanao, in the south of the Philippines.
Tropical cyclones are not common in this area. Overnight, almost a thousand people were killed. According to the United Nations, more than 50,000 houses were damaged and livelihoods of some 1.1 million people were affected. One month on, 26,000 survivors remain in largely overcrowded evacuation centers in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Another 200,000 people are seeking refuge in makeshift shelters and with host families in their areas of origin.
Present in the Philippines for more than 20 years, Handicap International was able to establish rapid response procedures that were activated after the disaster. For instance, the storm forced Joshua (10) to leave his home and to seek shelter in an evacuation center at a local school. Being disabled, Joshua struggles even more than the other refugees. To ensure his safety and alleviate his health concerns, Handicap International has replaced his old, big wheelchair with a new one.
"The problem is that those who are physically weak can hardly go to evacuation centers and access humanitarian aid," explains Catherine Vasseur, head of Handicap International's operations in the country. "It's paradoxical, but it is often those who need it the most who struggle to receive assistance."
Handicap International tries to target the most vulnerable people, including persons with disabilities and those most susceptible due to isolation, age, gender, or social status. Through its participation with the international humanitarian response, Handicap International intends to ensure that aid actually reaches those who need it most.
Handicap International offered wheelchairs or canes to the following four disabled survivors of Washi (among many others) in order to facilitate the reconstruction of their lives: