In the wake of Typhoon Rolly, thousands of families were displaced, and the extensive damage to agriculture meant that both livelihood and nutrition conditions for numerous communities would be negatively affected.
Particularly for the farmers, mothers, and malnourished children of Camarines Sur who had begun to see development gains through the Roots to Shoots (RTS) program of Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), this meant stagnation, or even regression. The devastation of the typhoon meant the program had to be put on hold.
Long before COVID-19 and Typhoon Rolly, PSFI, in partnership with Manila Water Foundation (MWF), and World Vision Development Foundation (WVDF), started the nutrition program, RTS, in Camarines Sur. The program focuses on the earliest stages of child development, and has three main components: (1) Food Security and Livelihood (FSL), (2) Water Access, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), and (3) Mother and Child Care. The FSL component, led by PSFI, capacitates farmers and community members on appropriate farming technologies with the goal of increasing access and availability of nutritious food. The WASH component, led by MWF, utilizes a holistic approach in the development of water and sanitation systems, and promotion of good hygiene behaviors. And lastly, Mother and Child Care, led by WVDF, aims to sustainably rehabilitate malnourished children and promote proper food preparation and good nutrition practices.
Camarines Sur was chosen for the nutrition program as it had been identified by the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition as having one of the highest rates for stunting, teenage pregnancy, and poverty in the country. When the pandemic started, the RTS team, comprised of representatives from each of the three foundations, found ways to adjust to the new restrictions, knowing full well that the program was even more important in the current context, given the spike in hunger incidence and unemployment. Slowly but surely, the program was beginning to see progress.
That was until the province was battered by back-to-back typhoons.
This is where the true commitment of the RTS team—to the shared nutrition goal and to the community—shone through. Though the program was on pause, the team did not rest. Hours after Typhoon Rolly wreaked havoc in Camarines Sur, the team came together and immediately began conducting a rapid assessment of the damage. In coordination with the local officials, they were able to disseminate information on the number of families who needed assistance, the type of support needed, and the areas most adversely affected. As a pivot to the RTS program, it was decided that hygiene kits and family food packs were to be distributed, in an effort to protect the development gains of the community. WVDF and MWF provided technical guidance to PSFI in determining what should be included in the kits, then volunteered to spend hours packing the relief goods. In the days following the typhoon, they would start packing in the early hours of the morning and continue until late in the evening. Logistic support was also provided, as well as assistance in the distribution of the goods to the community. It was clear through their actions that the motivation was not just to do their jobs, but to go above and beyond in service to the community. Together, the organizations provided hygiene kits and nutritious food packs to over 2,000 households affected by the typhoon in Camarines Sur as well as Albay.
At the start of the year, the RTS team had a clear vision of where they and their partner communities in Camarines Sur were headed. The past 11 months, however, have been fraught with challenges and changes, and even the best laid plans have fallen apart. To date, Camarines Sur has not fully recovered from the typhoon yet, and the threat of COVID-19 looms large.
What is clearer now more than ever, is that nobody can go it alone. There are countless losses to mourn in 2020, but perhaps it is in the synergies born from these challenges that one can find reason to hope that things can and will get better.
[Article submitted by Anna Pauline Paguia, Pilipinas Shell Foundation, Inc.]