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I am a survivor of the humanitarian chaos brought about by the devastation of super typhoon Haiyan in Leyte in November 2013. I almost lost my wife who was pregnant during that time. More painfully however, most of us lost our dignity during that time.

I experienced lining up for hours just to receive a meagre food relief. I experienced walking miles just to access government services. It was so demeaning that when I finally was accepted as the program manager for the Archdiocese of Palo’s Relief and Rehabilitation Unit (Caritas Palo), I vowed to use every opportunity to ease the burden of my fellow survivors.

But help didn’t come easy either. For weeks, we had to explain to every household that before we could bring aid, we needed to do profiling first. We needed to do assessments. We needed to gather data. This was very frustrating. But I also came to understand and appreciate that without data, we cannot provide the most appropriate interventions. Without the reliable disaster assessment information, we will not be able to provide long-term solutions to the humanitarian crisis.

I shared these realisations with our national counterparts at NASSA/Caritas Philippines. I didn’t know that at that time that the same pot was being stirred, the same ideas were being conceived.

I received a call from NASSA/Caritas Philippines in April 2017 saying, “Mr. Ronald Abao, prepare your passport, you are flying to Indonesia!”

I didn’t know what to say, except that it would be my first time travelling out of the country! But who was I kidding? I had waited for the perfect time to have somebody outside of the Caritas network to appreciate the value of the ideas behind a single digital platform.

During the workshop in Indonesia, I told the plenary, “with the help of this system, communities will be able to identify their priority programs and needs, and later would help them in preparing the community plans, especially the Enhanced Community Development Plan (ECDP) and Enhanced Community Land Use Plan (ECLUP), which are a requirement of the national government for the annual fund allocation during the passage of the General Appropriation Act (GAA).”

#DIGITALPH is now being integrated in our new projects, and I couldn’t be happier! I now see a future not having to line up during relief operations, or to beg for government officials to listen to our demands. #DIGITALPH will slowly change the paradigm of humanitarian response within our church and government. We just need to be more aggressive in having them tight within our circle of believers.

Author: Ronald Abao, Programme Manager, Caritas Palo

Top image: Ronald Abao, Program Manager of Caritas Palo, during one of the convergence sessions with the local government unit of Tanauan, Leyte, presenting the HIF-funded project.

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