Program on Resilient Communities

More reciprocal, cohesive local collaborations needed for disaster risk reduction in the Philippines

Massachusetts, USA — For the Philippine disaster risk reduction (DRR) system to further strengthen and be sustainable, local humanitarian actors need to conduct more cohesive and reciprocal collaborations with each other, researchers from the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) have recommended based on their recent study.

“Local organizations are best placed to prepare for and respond disasters. Our research suggests that international aid agencies continue to play a large role in the network of Philippines disaster agencies, pointing to the need to build greater ties...

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Why heeding the voice of at-risk populations is crucial to resilience

By Mark Toldo, Communications Specialist at HHI’s Program on Resilient Communities

Since the establishment of the United Nations (UN) International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in 1999, awareness of and response to disasters has grown globally. Governments, nonprofit organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, and even the private sector now often converge to conduct collaborative projects aimed at mitigating the impacts of disasters and climate change to vulnerable...

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Tilly Alcayna. 1/2016. “Slum socio-ecology: an exploratory characterisation of vulnerability to climate-change related disasters in the urban context”.Abstract

As cities, especially coastal megacities, continue to grow often through rapid unplanned urbanization, populations are increasingly concentrated in climate change-affected hazard-prone spaces. How these populations interact with their environments will ultimately influence their vulnerability to climate-related disaster. Yet the interdependence between human and environmental systems, especially in the urban slum context, is under-researched and represents an important gap in our understanding. Using a socio-ecological system approach provides a holistic framework to understand vulnerability.

Tilly Alcayna, Vincenzo Bollettino, Philip Dy, and Patrick Vinck. 9/2016. “Resilience and Disaster Trends in the Philippines: Opportunities for National and Local Capacity Building.” PLOS Currents Disasters. Read PublicationAbstract

The Philippines is one of the top countries in the world at risk of climate-related disasters. For populations subsisting at the poverty line in particular, but also the nation as a whole, daily lives and wellbeing are routinely challenged. The Philippines government takes disaster risk seriously and has devoted significant resources to build disaster capacity and reduce population exposure and vulnerability, nationally and locally. This paper explores the policy and institutional mechanisms for disaster risk reduction management and research which have been conducted in the Philippines related to disaster preparedness, management and resilience.  

Tori Stephens. 3/2016. The Typhoon Haiyan Response: Strengthening Coordination among Philippine Government, Civil Society, and International Actors. Read PublicationAbstract

Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central Philippines in November 2013, claiming more than 6,300 lives, displacing more than 4 million people, and disrupting the economy and livelihoods in some of the country’s poorest regions for years to come.

The Haiyan response has been held up as a largely effective humanitarian operation, and the transition from response to recovery phases was swift. However, evaluations have also found that the international operation failed to adequately join with national systems and overlooked civil society coordination opportunities.

With these coordination gaps and potential opportunities in mind, this discussion paper examines factors that affected the Philippine government’s ability to coordinate the Haiyan response and the international community’s ability to participate. 

Vincenzo Bollettino, Tilly Alcayna, Patrick Vinck, and Philip Dy. 1/2016. DisasterNet Philippines: Scoping Study Report.Abstract

This scoping study maps government, community-based organizations, national and international non-governmental organizations, private sector initiatives, and research and academic institutions working on disaster preparedness and response in the Philippines.

The study provides the basis for undertaking a series of research studies to designed to identify the leading contributing factors that determine effective disaster preparedness measures and the antecedents of high measures of community-based disaster resilience.

Vincenzo Bollettino, Patrick Vinck, Tilly Alcayna, and Philip Dy. 9/2017. “Introduction to Socio-Ecological Resilience.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Natural Hazard Science. Read PublicationAbstract

In recent years, the notion of resilience has grown into an important concept for both scholars and practitioners working on disasters. This evolution reflects a growing interest from diverse disciplines in a holistic understanding of complex systems, including how societies interact with their environment. This new lens offers an opportunity to focus on communities’ ability to prepare for and adapt to the challenges posed by natural hazards, and the mechanism they have developed to cope and adapt to threats. This is important because repeated stresses and shocks still cause serious damages to communities across the world, despite efforts to better prepare for disasters.

Scholars from a variety of disciplines have developed resilience frameworks both to guide macro-level policy decisions about where to invest in preparedness and to measure which systems perform best in limiting losses from disasters and ensuring rapid recovery. Yet there are competing conceptions of what resilience encompasses and how best to measure it. While there is a significant amount of scholarship produced on resilience, the lack of a shared understanding of its conceptual boundaries and means of measurement make it difficult to demonstrate the results or impact of resilience programs.

If resilience is to emerge as a concept capable of aiding decision-makers in identifying socio-geographical areas of vulnerability and improving preparedness, then scholars and practitioners need to adopt a common lexicon on the different elements of the concept and harmonize understandings of the relationships amongst them and means of measuring them. This article reviews the origins and evolution of resilience as an interdisciplinary, conceptual umbrella term for efforts by different disciplines to tackle complex problems arising from more frequent natural disasters. It concludes that resilience is a useful concept for bridging different academic disciplines focused on this complex problem set, while acknowledging that specific measures of resilience will differ as different units and levels of analysis are employed to measure disparate research questions.

Program Resilient on Communities. 9/2018. Cordillera Administrative Region: Household Preparedness.Abstract
Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) has had a major impact on the north of the Philippines displacing more than 50,000 people in Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and resulting in over PhP 14 billion in agriculatural damages (equivalent to approx. USD 270 million). The Philippines government and many national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be involved in the response. To help tailor the response it is useful to know what the level of preparedness for disaster was in Cordillera Administrative Region before the storm hit. The following statistics, compiled by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, were gathered between March and April of 2017.
Program Resilient on Communities. 9/2018. Cagayan Valley Region: Household Preparedness.Abstract
Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) has had a major impact on the north of the Philippines damaging in excess of 76,000 homes in Cagayan Province (Region II Cagayan Valley) and completing destroying more than 10,000 homes there. The Philippines government and many national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will be involved in the response. To help tailor the response it is useful to know what the level of preparedness for disaster was in Cagayan Valley Province before the storm hit.
The following statistics, compiled by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, were gathered between March and April of 2017.
Vincenzo Bollettino, Tilly Alcayna, Krish Enriquez, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2018. Perceptions of Disaster Resilience and Preparedness in the Philippines.Abstract

The Philippines is one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. Located along the boundary of major tectonic plates and at the center of a typhoon belt, its islands are regularly impacted by floods, typhoons, landslides, earthquakes, volcanoes, and droughts. The Philippines also ranks among the top three countries in the world for population exposure and vulnerability to hazards. The Philippine government has developed strong coping mechanisms over their long history of experience with disasters. Yet, significant gaps remain in disaster management capacities across different regions of the Philippines and surprisingly little data are available referencing local levels of disaster resilience and preparedness.

This research aims to address the gap in knowledge on both local disaster resilience and preparedness by providing a comprehensive overview of household measures of resilience and levels of disaster preparedness. This is the first nationwide household survey on measures of disaster resilience and disaster preparedness carried out in the Philippines. It comes at a time of critical importance as efforts are being made to ensure disaster management is based on evidence, especially at the local level and amid national discussions on centralizing disaster resilience efforts under a single national agency.

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Tilly Alcayna, Vincenzo Bollettino, Lea Manzanero, and Patrick Vinck. 6/2019. Perceptions of Vulnerability, Preparedness, Assistance, and Barriers: Regional Infographics, the Philippines.Abstract

This report provides a regional breakdown of household perceptions and self-reported activities on several key questions related to disaster preparedness and recovery in the Philippines. These are: who and what is vulnerable? What preparedness activities have households undertaken? What assistance have households received and what helped them recover the most? What are the barriers?

The report is intended to be used in conjunction with the full report “Perceptions of Disaster Resilience and Preparedness in the Philippines” (2018), which explores perceptions on a wider variety of disaster related issues in greater detail. Data for both reports were derived from a nationwide, household-level survey of randomly selected adults aged 18 years old and above, representing all of Philippines economic strata, conducted in 2017.

Vincenzo Bollettino and Sarah Ferguson. 5/2020. “Case Study: Academic/NGO Collaboration to Understand Climate Change and Disaster Resilience Implementation in Bagerhat District, Bangladesh”.Abstract
This case study describes a research collaboration between an academic institution and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) designed to inform programs to strengthen coordination in Bangladesh. The case describes the rationale for conducting the study, the research process, and outcomes of the research. The objective of the case study is to support local or municipal governments, NGOs, students, or other program managers to consider how collaboration with academic institutions could enhance their programs, as well as how research such as a network analysis could be useful to inform their work. For those interested in conducting a network analysis, the case also provides resources and tools to support researchers and organizations to replicate the study in their program context.
Sarah Ferguson, Vincenzo Bollettino, Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Rachel Dickinson, Alexis Smart, and Evan Bloom. 5/2020. “Bangladesh Network Analysis Report”.Abstract
Coordination among actors during an emergency is crucial for effective, efficient action. The existence of pre-disaster relationships between actors can strengthen the speed with which coordination occurs in a disaster setting, making relationshipbuilding before a disaster an important element of preparedness. As such, understanding the relationships between stakeholders working to advance disaster resilience and response is a crucial first step to support institutional strengthening and capacity building. The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), Concern Worldwide, and Jagrata Juba Shangha (JJS) are jointly implementing programs to enhance climate change adaptation and disaster resilience among coastal communities in Bagerhat District, Bangladesh. This district is located in Bangladesh’s low-elevation coastal zones, which are especially vulnerable to natural disasters and have already begun to see the effects of climate change. Bagerhat has high levels of food and water insecurity and poverty, and is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and climate change impacts (5). The district has been heavily impacted by recent cyclones, and is experiencing sea level rise and saltwater intrusion. This network analysis was undertaken to support strengthening coordination and collaboration among actors working on climate change adaptation and disaster resilience in Bagerhat.