In the Philippines, First Response is Critical for Protecting Women and Girls

CATW International January 29, 2015 Philippines

In Tanauan, CATW-AP and the volunteer rescue group, Zafra, distributed porridge to evacuation center residents.

In Aftermath of Typhoons Yolanda and Ruby, CATW-AP Acts as First Responder to Prevent Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Exploitation in the Philippines


A little over a year after Super Typhoon Yolanda (also known as Haiyan) devastated the Philippines killing more than 6,000 and displacing an estimated 4 million people, the islands faced another natural disaster - Typhoon Ruby (or Hagupit). Before Ruby even made landfall in early December 2014, CATW-AP was on the scene as first responders in some of the poorest areas of the country expected to be hit hardest by the storm.


Ruby’s path was predicted to hit many regions that still had not recovered from the devastation caused by Typhoon Yolanda. Prior to Ruby, many Filipinos were still homeless and jobless as a result of Typhoon Yolanda. Still waiting for help from the national government, survivors continue to reside in state-run bunkhouses, evacuation centers and tent cities. Electricity, food and water remain in short supply for many, and cities’ civil and medical infrastructures are still being rebuilt. Adding to these vulnerabilities, women and girls are at higher risks of sexual violence and exploitation.


Given the region’s endemic precarious conditions, especially for women and girls, CATW-AP recognizes the importance of first response upon news of major storms. On the ground in Tacloban City, Roxas and Iloio, Cebu, Samar, and Palawan, CATW-AP staff and volunteers distributed Noche Buena emergency kits packed with essential supplies such as non-perishable food items, bottled water, and in some cases, toiletries, children’s toys, and other donated items. In Tanauan, CATW-AP joined the Zafra volunteer rescue team in bringing porridge to evacuation center residents. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund, CATW-AP also plans to convene Gender-Based Violence Watch Groups in the aftermath of the storm.


Trafficking in women and girls is exacerbated in areas afflicted by natural disasters and conflict. Even before Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines, the provinces of Leyte and Samar were considered major trafficking spots. The severe losses that followed Yolanda created an environment for sex traffickers. Marginalized and vulnerable women and girls are often offered food and water in exchange for sex, or lured into prostitution with false promises of paid employment. Displaced and orphaned girls are particularly at risk of trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation. 


Understanding the links between gender-based violence, trafficking and natural disasters, CATW-AP continues its commitment to implementing preventative measures and strategies to protect women and girls’ rights. 


Please join us in commending CATW-AP on their tireless service to ensuring the safety and well-being of typhoon survivors, especially women and girls. You can support CATW-AP’s disaster relief efforts by visiting our campaign page and making a contribution. The Noche Buena packs cost only $11 USD to assemble, and a gift of $32 USD helps cover transportation costs for one trip to deliver goods and services to disaster-stricken areas. Thank you.