S. Philippines faces food insecurity after floods

by Thin Lei Win | @thinink | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 6 July 2011 12:31 GMT

Floods destroyed thousands of hectares of rice and corn, raising fears of food shortages

BANGKOK (AlertNet) - Recent flooding in the southern Philippines has affected half a million people and destroyed crops, raising concerns about food shortages in the coming months, the U.N. World Food Programme has said.

The waters have now subsided considerably. But U.N. agencies are also worried about living conditions for tens of thousands who remain in evacuation centres with few or no health and sanitation facilities.

More than half a million people in Cotabato City and Maguindanao Province on the southern island of Mindanao have been caught up in flash floods that occurred last month. Thousands of hectares of rice and corn have been damaged.  

“WFP is concerned about the long-term food security implications for those farmers whose crops have been devastated by floods, particularly since some of the damaged crops were due to be harvested in September,” Marcus Prior, WFP’s Bangkok-based regional spokesperson, told AlertNet.

The next harvest is not for another six months. Regular data gathered by WFP shows that around 62 percent of households in Maguindanao were not consuming enough food even before the floods hit.

The U.N. food aid agency is providing rice and vegetable oil to over 350,000 people in 11 flood-affected municipalities through food distributions and food-for-work programmes.

While floods happen in the region every year, the WFP says the recent inundations are worse than in previous years.

“This is partially due to river siltation and a build up of water hyacinth on the Rio Grande de Mindanao - the largest river in the southern Philippines - which caused the river to overflow after days of heavy rain,” Prior said.

Flash floods have also affected other parts of Mindanao, including Davao, where overnight rain last week burst river banks, killing 25 people.

ILL-EQUIPPED EVACUATION CENTRES

Nearly 30,000 people are sheltering in 49 evacuation centres in Cotabato City and Maguindanao, but they do not have adequate water, sanitation and health provision, according to the latest situation report from the United Nations, issued on July 1.

Only nine out of 40 centres in Cotabato City have health stations, while other places have none.

“Sanitation facilities remain inadequate to respond to the current affected populations,” the report noted, adding that several groups living in schools and other buildings have resorted to defecating in the open.

Some evacuation centres have proper roofing, but the majority are makeshift structures, exposing displaced people to rain, humidity and sun.

“Congested and unsanitary...conditions are of immediate concern,” the report said. “There is also a lack of gender considerations within the camps, including shared sanitation facilities, (and) inadequate consideration for persons with special needs.”

U.N. reproductive agency UNFPA, which visited the Cotabato centres, found they do not offer adequate protection for women.

The UNFPA said nine out of 10 centres do not have enough toilets and bathing facilities for the needs of both sexes. In addition, 83 percent of the few facilities available do not meet minimum standards to prevent sexual violence against women, such as having adequate locks and lighting.

The U.N. report also said cards giving access to food aid have been handed out without much consideration for gender or the special needs of vulnerable groups, including female-headed households and the elderly, some of whom had to wait for hours.

Families that have lost their homes and livelihoods also need psychological support, but there is a lack of funding for this, the report said.

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