In 2013, the strongest landfalling typhoon on record, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) brought to light the need to build more resilient communities against disasters.
Total damage cross-country was estimated at $5.8 billion. But it was Eastern Visayas that took the brunt, as coconut farms and maritime equipment – both sources of livelihood for the rural coastal communities – were wiped out.
This scenario gave birth to the B-READY or Building Resilient Adaptive and Disaster Ready Communities, an initiative that combines disaster preparedness, weather forecasting, and financial technology.
An acronym for ‘Building Resilient Adaptive and Disaster Ready Communities,’ B-READY is led by humanitarian and development organization Oxfam, together with PayMaya Philippines, the People’s Disaster Risk Reduction Network (PDRRN), PLAN International, Global Parametrics, and the Local Government of Salcedo, Eastern Samar.
Under the B-READY program, smart data is used for the community’s early warning system. Even before a typhoon strikes, digital cash transfers are disbursed straight to the PayMaya accounts of identified beneficiaries, enabling them to better prepare. Beneficiaries use the funds to buy essentials at local PayMaya QR and card-enabled merchants or for telco load and utility bills via the PayMaya app. They can also cash out funds through Smart Padala outlets in their communities.
“During disasters, time is of the essence. People cannot wait. That’s why anticipatory actions are necessary so our people can stockpile essentials and secure their assets,” said Salcedo Mayor Melchor Mergal.
“Three days before dumating ang bagyo, may digital cash transfer kaming natatanggap,” said Barangay Captain Eduardo Ogalino of Barangay Butig, Salcedo. He also observes that community members use the anticipatory relief on rice and other food items before the prices go up.
(Three days before a typhoon arrives, eligible community members receive digital cash transfer.)
“Digital cash transfers are more appropriate because the most vulnerable communities do not have access to banks and traditional remittance companies. Everyone owns a phone, making mobile wallets suitable for humanitarian cash disbursement program,” said Niña Abogado, Oxfam Pilipinas Senior Manager for Programs and Partnerships.
“Using digital cash transfers streamlines the system for humanitarian efforts of the government, NGOs, and private sector partners, resulting in a more cost-effective, high impact delivery of aid,” said Shailesh Baidwan, President at PayMaya.
“For the beneficiaries, receiving financial assistance directly to their PayMaya accounts gives them the capability to determine how to best use the funds for their own needs. It adds dignity to the social aid process,” Baidwan added.
To date, the B-READY program has benefitted 1,975 households in Salcedo. Digital cash transfers are a central part of the intervention, but it is not the only component. Oxfam calls it the project that “bridges the gap between typhoon preparedness and financial inclusion.”
“The most vulnerable do not have formal bank accounts, so we integrate financial literacy in our program,” said Abogado.
Seeds are bearing fruit. Analiza Esco, a resident of Barangay Cagaut, Salcedo, is one of the first recipients of the B-READY project when it started in 2019– a lifeline when Typhoons Ursula and Auring visited in December of the same year and February 2021, respectively.
“Malaking tulong ang B-READY kasi may community drills at training sa tamang paghahanda,” said Esco.
(B-READY has helped us immensely because there are community drills and training for disaster preparedness.)
She also shares how getting used to digital payments has been helping them build a better financial footprint. “Nagagamit pa namin pang-savings,” said Esco, referring to her PayMaya account, which she uses to “store” funds to help better manage her finances.
Project B-READY provides a framework for more sustainable disaster preparedness by using weather forecasting and digital finance tools. According to Oxfam’s Abogado, it encourages a situation where there is “a far less expensive response needed after typhoons hit, as the action was already taken to limit the damage, preparations have boosted people’s confidence, and thus helping them recover sooner.”
“At PayMaya, we are proud to take part in building more resilient communities through digital financial services. With climate change, the mission becomes doubly important, and we hope more local communities can adopt the B-READY experience,” Baidwan concluded.
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