May 13, 2021

In the Philippines, Families that Lost Homes in a Fire Get Much-Needed Help

On March 19, 2021, a deadly fire broke out in a residential area of Kawit, Cavite, Philippines, which left approximately 80 percent of homes destroyed.

About 1,079 individuals from 511 families were affected, and 450 survivors had their homes devastated by the fire, according to an initial damage report submitted by a local Adventist Community Services (ACS) team of the Cavite Mission.

“Most fire-affected families sought temporary shelter in three evacuation centers in the Binakayan National High School, the Binakayan Elementary School, and the Florante Ilano Memorial Elementary School,” Edelene Eunice de Guia, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) emergency response coordinator in the Philippines, said. “Others stayed with relatives and friends.”

According to the assessment report, many items were needed, including food, bed kits, kitchen utensils, plywood, and more. ADRA decided to implement a cash response so that survivors who lost their homes could purchase what was needed most.

“Cash-based responses give aid beneficiaries more control of their life,” Tom Pignon, ADRA country director for the Philippines, said. “It can promote dignity, choice, and the ability for recipients to prioritize their own needs. In contrast, when people receive in-kind contributions that may not meet their priorities, they often sell them, which in turn can distort local markets.” 

According to Pignon, implementing the emergency response in a COVID-19 era has posed a challenge, and access to evacuation centers has been restricted.

ADRA and ACS teams, however, received permission to visit evacuation sites, affirm families that lost their homes, and conduct the distribution of cash assistance.

“Before starting the distribution activity on March 26, a short program was held where the community was introduced to ADRA and ACS,” de Guia said. “Instructions were also given about how to share any complaints and feedback during the distribution.”

The local government unit, an executive authority in the area, helped ADRA and ACS control the crowd and implement health protocols. Each evacuation center leader also helped facilitate the cash distribution, which expedited the whole distribution. In three hours, more than 400 families in three evacuation centers were each able to receive 1,500 pesos (US$75).

Cavite and the nearby provinces, including the National Capital Region, remain under “modified enhanced community” quarantine until May 14, unless a person is an essential worker or needs to buy grocery items or gain access to health services.

“ADRA recognizes the importance of a post-distribution monitoring mechanism, but since Cavite has an increasing number of COVID-19 cases, we decided not to do so to prevent COVID-19 risks, especially for our ACS partners,” Pignon said. “Please continue to pray for the families who’ve lost their homes. We know that this cash assistance isn’t enough to rebuild their homes, but we pray that it can help them on their road to recovery and return to some level of normalcy.”  

The original version of this story was posted by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency.