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European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations
5 June 2024

Philippines: how a community hit by disaster built back safer

Photo of Miriam sitting on a chair in front of her house.
© CARE Philippines, 2023

People in the northern Philippines knew the Super Typhoon Doksuri was coming. But when it struck in July 2023, its force took many by surprise. It brought more than a month’s worth of rain in 2 days, damaged some 56,000 houses, and affected 3 million people. 

Miriam Bisares, 31, was one of them. She lost her home and almost all her possessions. Thanks to the EU-funded project ACCESS, she got the much-needed help to build a new house, more resilient, where she now feels safe. 

Miriam lives with her husband and 3 children in a village in Abra, one of the worst-hit provinces. The day the super typhoon hit her village, the water level rose quickly around 10:00. Amidst heavy rain and howling winds, Miriam’s family sheltered in a hut on slightly higher ground, further away from the river.

By 18:00, the water was at their feet again. The flood had submerged the paths to higher ground, and the family had to use a big knife to cut their way to safety through a thick tangle of grass and shrubs.

Once the flood waters receded, Miriam saw the damage with her own eyes. Her home — made of light materials and located a few meters away from the edge of a river cliff — had been swept away.

A buffalo in a muddy river.
The nearby river is both a blessing and a burden. Its banks are fertile, and it provides the village with water, but the village is flood prone and during the rainy season, the water becomes murky.
© CARE Philippines, 2023

When the floodwaters receded, the community came together to clean up and build back.

They received repair kits and training sessions on how to build their homes back stronger and safer through the ACCESS Project, run by CARE and other organisations with funding from the EU Humanitarian Aid. All in all, some 1,650 people who had lost their homes received shelter assistance through this project across the provinces of Abra and Cagayan. 

Miriam and her neighbours started rebuilding their houses in an elevated part of the village. They formed a group that ensured that every house was repaired or rebuilt properly. As part of the team, Miriam became well-versed in safe building practices, for example the use of strong bracing, interlocking joints, and anchored posts.

Miriam holding her daughter in her arms while walking outside of the door.
When Miriam and her family moved into their new house, she said: “It’s a huge difference. We’re safe and comfortable here. We don’t worry about the water reaching us in the event of a typhoon.”
© CARE Philippines, 2023

Under the EU-funded project, emergency water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance were also provided through a water system and hygiene promotion activities.  

Miriam and her daughter walking hand in hand, seen from the back.
Now, Miriam and her husband are focused on taking care of the children. He cooks for them before leaving for work; she walks them to and from school.
© CARE Philippines, 2023

Asked what aspirations she has for the family, Miriam says, “I hope we can support the 3 of them so they can finish school and have a better future.”

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Story and photos by CARE Philippines

Publication date: 05/06/2024