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News from Member Organisations March 2022 - Philippines

PAOT DRR: Super Typhoon Odette Relief Operations

Japeth T. Dia, MAOT, OTRP & Cyrille Stephanie J. Torremaña, OTRP

Considered as the “strongest storm of 2021”, Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) made its landfall last December 16, 2021 in southeastern Philippines. According to Junio (2022), “it brought torrential rains, violent winds, landslides, and storm surges, and affected over 7.8 million people across 11 regions.” In just one day, the typhoon has intensified from Category 1 to Category 5. The sudden downpour made it difficult for people in the affected regions to prepare for the arrival of the storm or even to evacuate

(Center for Disaster Philanthropy, 2022).

Given the geographic location of the Philippines, the country is prone to natural disasters and calamities. Disasters, classified as either natural or technological depending on their nature, progress in five stages, with each stage requiring different levels of support: pre-impact period, impact period, immediate post-impact period, recovery period, and reconstruction period (Scaffa et al., 2006). Since occupational therapists’ core practice skills are founded on the importance of occupational engagement, during the phases of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, occupational therapists can and should be involved as occupations are disrupted and greatly affected during these difficult times.

The Philippine Academy of Occupational Therapists’ (PAOT) committee on Community Affairs, specifically its subcommittee on Disaster Risk Reduction and Response (PAOT DRR), in collaboration with volunteer occupational therapists through its Committee on Chaptership, has been doing its efforts to provide relief to some communities affected by Typhoon Odette. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the difficulty in reaching the affected communities, as it was not easy to send over volunteers to gather information and conduct needs assessment, which always is our first step in disaster relief and response. The possible local coordinators willing to take on roles were also assumed to have been personally affected by the devastating effects of the typhoon as well.

There were personal initiatives of occupational therapists in different regions. Mr. Japeth Dia, an occupational therapist from Iloilo City, Western Visayas, immediately extended help to stranded individuals by providing hot meals. Mr. Dia communicated with occupational therapists from Negros, an island nearby, where Super Typhoon Rai also made a landfall. Days after, he went to Unisan, Guimaras Island, to bring relief goods to the locals whose homes and livelihood were badly devastated; at the same time, he surveyed the area for persons with disabilities needing assistance of any kind. Ms. Fritzi Lim, another occupational therapist based in Cebu City, Central Visayas, provided drinking water and relief goods in many areas in the community, including evacuation centers. She found institutions and communities with persons with disabilities and extended her help to them as well. Needs of these communities, aside from basic necessities, were identified and taken note of as we continue to provide our assistance to them. Ms. Lanekar Uriarte, an occupational therapist from Surigao, helped by calling for donations and packing relief goods for those in her community. Another occupational therapist, who wishes to remain anonymous, also had personal relief efforts in Southern Leyte. Ms. Penny Ching, Ms. Sheila Alonto, and Mr. Paolo Bulan initiated identifying more occupational therapists from Eastern Visayas requiring assistance, throughout this initiative. Furthermore, a call for volunteers and donations were posted on the social media pages of PAOT and PAOT DRR to further involve the rest of the Filipino OT Community.

PAOT intends to improve our disaster preparedness, relief, and response through empowerment of its local chapters. Moving forward, current ideas include generating a donation drive in every PAOT regional chapter; these chapters can either provide assistance to their locality or to their neighboring region. Donations such as mattresses, pillows, canned goods, and other essentials are being considered. The organization aims to establish a stronger DRR through providing capacity-building activities to our local chapters, including seminars and training to occupational therapists. Occupational therapists who have extensive experience in dealing with disaster response and post-disaster trauma will conduct learning sessions, so even before disasters hit, Filipino occupational therapists are already equipped with knowledge and skills and can readily respond to the immediate needs of the community post-disasters.

“As occupational therapists with a keen sense of how environmental factors and contexts affect occupational performance, let us advocate for more sustainable shelter and livelihoods that will further complement people's capacity to respond to and bounce back from a disaster situation.” (Ching, 2022)

References:

Center for Disaster Philanthropy. (2022, January 14). Super Typhoon Odette (Rai).

Junio, R. A. (2022, January 15). Typhoon Odette One Month On: Health services remain disrupted, leaving affected communities vulnerable to preventable diseases.

Scaffa, M., Gerardi, S. M., Herzberg, G., McColl, M. A. (2006). The Role of Occupational Therapy in

Disaster Preparedness, Response, and Recovery. American Journal of Occupational Therapy,

60(6):642-649.