Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippines’ economy was growing fast—but the resulting benefits were not enjoyed by the poorest people in the country. When the pandemic hit, unemployment soared past 17 percent and more than 20 percent of people in the country were going hungry. Women in particular suffered from increased domestic duties, risk of violence, and loss of jobs.
Inequality persists: A fifth of the people in the Philippines are living in poverty, and the poorest 20 percent of the people in the Philippines are earning less than eight percent of the country’s income.
The Philippines is also being affected by climate change. Unpredictable rainfall and hazardous weather events are a recurring challenge that again hits the poorest people the hardest. In October and November 2021, a succession of typhoons destroyed thousands of homes and caused billions in agricultural losses.
With your help, Oxfam Pilipinas works with more than 50 local partner organizations across the Philippines to fight inequality to end poverty and injustice through economic empowerment projects, disaster response and reducing community risks to emergencies, peace building and conflict reduction, and programs to help women gain more economic opportunities.
How to help people in poverty in the Philippines
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What challenges are people in the Philippines facing?
1 in 4
Filipino women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical, emotional, or sexual violence by their husband or partner.
of the population in the Philippines lives below the poverty line (2021).
of the population is exposed to hazards such as floods, cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, tsunamis, and landslides.
What is Oxfam doing to help people in poverty in the Philippines
The work of Oxfam Pilipinas is carried out in collaboration with partner organizations. In the short term, we offer lifesaving support to people in crisis as we work to respond more effectively to disasters. Our longer-term work is focused on fighting the inequality that leads to poverty by improving economic opportunities for women and other vulnerable people, decreasing risks, and helping women secure their basic rights.
HELPING PEOPLE IN THE PHILIPPINES SURVIVE IN THE SHORT TERM
Responding to emergencies
In 2020-2021, Oxfam Pilipinas worked with 32 local humanitarian organizations to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, flooding from super typhoon Goni, a volcanic eruption, and other emergencies that affected people in 18 provinces in eight regions. Oxfam and our partners reached 183,408 individuals (36,681 households) and provided safe water and proper sanitation, and hygiene training to encourage hand-washing and other measures to avoid diseases. Of Oxfam’s resources devoted to humanitarian emergencies, 87 percent of the budget went to local humanitarian organizations.
Helping women and girls during the pandemic
Oxfam Pilipinas assessed how the COVID-19 pandemic was affecting women and girls, surveying nearly 1,000 women in urban and rural areas in six regions. The survey findings led to support for women and girls to access sexual and reproductive health services: Oxfam’s partners urged the Department of Health to make sexual and reproductive health services part of the pandemic response, carried out public outreach work to share information on how to access services, and distributed “dignity kits” to 5,862 women and girls. They also urged local government representatives to increase support for survivors of domestic violence and shared information to communities about how survivors can get help. Oxfam Pilipinas and partners also provided cash assistance to women affected by the pandemic, distributing $76 to 325 individuals to help them buy food, medication, and other essentials.
Cash in anticipation of storms and flooding
Oxfam Pilipinas and partners set up an innovative system to distribute cash to people just before major disasters to help people anticipate their needs and be better prepared. After a forecast for heavy rains in 2020, Oxfam disbursed cash to 852 families in five flood-prone villages near Cotabato City four days before six feet of water inundated the area. In 2021, we disbursed $36 in cash to 1,975 people near Salcedo, Eastern Samar, in advance of a major tropical storm to help those in the path of the storm evacuate and cover their expenses.
HELPING PEOPLE IN THE PHILLIPPINES THRIVE OVER THE LONG TERM
To reduce the threat of climate change to the most vulnerable communities, Oxfam is working with local partners and the government to help people adapt and survive changing rainfall patterns and sudden storms and other disasters. This includes changes in agriculture: Oxfam provided a solar bubble dryer to help a 53-member rice-growing cooperative dry their harvest after a typhoon. Oxfam and our partners are also working with local government and others to devote more budget to reducing the risk of disasters, and finding more and better solutions to the needs of urban poor communities, such as access to and control over water, food, energy, transport, shelter, and waste management.
Oxfam also supports initiatives in the Philippines that will accelerate the country’s transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. On Hilabaan Island in Eastern Samar, Oxfam and SIKAT installed solar panels and batteries to power 120 households and street lights as part of their Just Energy Transition project.
Working for gender justice
Oxfam works with a wide range of women’s rights organizations to promote gender justice in the Philippines. Oxfam funds work to address the numerous ways that the COVID-19 pandemic made women and girls vulnerable to violence, and to meet sexual and reproductive health needs. In Surigao del Sur, Oxfam and our partner SIKAT trained health workers to reach out to women and girls unable to come to community health centers during the pandemic lockdown. “We were able to provide uninterrupted family planning services to women of reproductive age,” says Christine Ampon, executive director of SIKAP.
We also support training for groups interested in how local government budgets reflect the ways communities can reduce violence against women and teen pregnancy, and improve access to sexual and reproductive health services.
To address the unequal burdens of women in the home, Oxfam Pilipinas funds public awareness campaigns to urge families to more equitably share unpaid domestic duties to help women have more time and space for additional income and leadership roles in the community.
Oxfam partners help local women leaders who raise awareness about violence against women and advocate to improve services for survivors among police officers, health workers, and other service providers.
We support groups that are helping women to create alternative ways to make a decent living, and encourage the government to adopt policies that will help keep women safe from sexual exploitation and violence. To help create a more positive future for women, Oxfam helps groups to reform education and promote public messages that deconstruct harmful images and negative stereotypes of women.
In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, home to more than 3.5 million Filipinos, many of whom are living in extreme poverty, we work with young women and men to raise awareness of violence against women and girls. In 2020 and 2021, local youth groups campaigned to support legislation to end the practice of child/forced marriages. Oxfam Pilipinas and local partners have fought hard to lay the foundation for fostering a community where young girls are empowered and free from any forms of violence. This has included advocating for a law against child marriage. After a long and arduous fight, the Anti-Child Marriage Law was signed by the president on December 10, 2021. The new law, RA No.11596, declares child marriage as illegal and imposes penalties against violators.
Supporting local humanitarian leaders
Oxfam works closely with organizations, in collaboration with local government, to reduce the risk of disasters and help communities be better prepared for emergencies. The goal is for these organizations and the communities they represent to deliver timely and appropriate anticipatory action and humanitarian response consisting of water, sanitation and hygiene items (like soap), emergency food, help for people to re-establish their livelihoods, and cash.
We also work closely with women rights organizations to influence the government’s policies around women’s rights in humanitarian crises. We work to strengthen women leadership by supporting women’s rights and youth groups in their collaboration with local governmental bodies working to reduce the risk of, and respond to, disasters.
In Eastern Samar, Oxfam works with the Philippines Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) to help communities plant mangrove trees to reduce their vulnerability in storms. In the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, PRRM helped communities address the lack of water and soap they needed to wash their hands and reduce their chances of getting sick. “We provided the communities with a design for a simple hand-washing station, and money to buy water containers, sinks, faucets, material for the stand, and soap,” says PRRM Director Raymundo Agaton. “They did the construction themselves.”
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