By Husni and Mary Joy Evalarosa, IFRC

Rita Balaguna, 48, was preparing breakfast for her family when the deadly Tropical Storm Tembin struck her hometown in Halapitan Barangay, municipality of San Fernando, Bukidnon province, a few days before Christmas Day in 2017. Within just a short time, Tembin, intensified by heavy rainfall, formed severe floods that damaged Balaguna’s home and many other Barangays in the Southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

“It happened very fast, the floods reached the roof of the house instantly,” recalled Balaguna. “We were not able to eat our breakfast and had to escape the town to save our lives.”

Balaguna and her husband, along with their seven children, fled their home to a safer zone, leaving all their possessions behind. They were rescued by police officers in the Barangay and were transported to the community evacuation centre.

“We stayed in the evacuation site for one week and celebrated Christmas there,” said Balaguna. Her family shared the space in the centre with many community members affected by Tembin. The site was overwhelmingly crowded as many people were displaced.

23 provinces suffered the brunt of Tropical Storm Tembin, as the storm claimed more than 100 lives and affected more than 500,000 people across Mindanao island in the Philippines. The Philippine Red Cross was one of the first humanitarian actors on the ground to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the affected families.

“Getting to the affected communities was quite challenging due to the severe floods and landslides Tembin caused,” said Joy Daroy, Head of the Bukidnon Philippine Red Cross chapter. “We drove and continued walking for many hours to reach the people who needed immediate assistance.”

Red Cross distributed food and relief items such as hygiene kits, cash, as well as provided psychosocial support to families who lost loved ones.

Getting help with restoring income

The Red Cross cash grant programme gave new hope to Balaguna, helping her restore her family income after the storm.

“I used the cash support from the Red Cross to buy five ducks,” said Balaguna happily. “I have never had experience in livestock farming in the past, but it has given me and my family a new way to earn some income. I plan to raise them and sell their eggs. I will use the money to support my children’s education.”

Joy Daroy sees unconditional cash assistance as a robust solution, especially in disaster operations and recovery, considering that people have different needs and livelihood options. “Giving cash to the affected communities can help them plan their livelihood and future better,” Daroy explained.

Red Cross provided 3,000 Philippine pesos (55 Swiss francs) per household and to people whose houses and livelihoods were severely impacted by Tembin. To date, more than 1,800 families have received unconditional cash assistance from Red Cross. Around 1,000 households will be targeted in the recovery programme in the next six months.