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WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Wanted: out-of-the-box thinking

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 December) — Problem: How do we speed up distribution of relief in order to save lives and prevent further human suffering?

This is a human rights issue.

No, the solution is not to go out on the streets enthusiastically waving red banners that say “No to Militarization!” The boys might just give you what you want and where, pray tell, would that leave those suffering and dying in the wake of Typhoon Pablo?

Okay, that’s a dig at the indignant howls some quarters raised about soldiers participating in the Human Rights Day parade. Don’t take it to heart. No malice intended on my part. It’s a basic human right to hold on to our biases. I choose who I march with on the streets, too.

But I guess even the most anti-militarist among us is beginning to apprehend the alarming humanitarian crisis that is testing our Christmas spirit. It’s hard to think of ourselves as redeemers of the world, so some of us won’t even try.

Positive thinking, bro. Assume we can save people from dying. Now, how do we do it?

Inconveniently out of reach of people in need is the supply of food, medicine, water, mats, blankets, hygiene products, clothes, underwear, slippers, and other essential items for survival. They are in DSWD drop centers or in the hands of organizations that have the influence to call in donations. Our problem is getting these in the hands of storm survivors.

Anyone who survived that terrible storm should not die of starvation, disease, neglect, and abandonment. Anyone who lived through that test of faith deserves to know – and know for sure – that other people care. Storm survivors should not lose hope because when they do they just give up and… ah, rats – I can’t even think about it.

Typhoon Pablo survivors deserve to live. And despite the odds not being in their favor at the moment, they will live if we can get help to them fast, if we can sustain this help until they could be part of what keeps their lifeline strong and steady. Survivors need to be enjoined to take part in the process of helping themselves. More so now when they face the next challenge in the emergence of post-disaster public health issues where they are.

So back to the question of speeding up the distribution of relief.

Until Hadji’s tweet trawling for creative solutions come back with strategies that may actually work, I have two suggestions that I’ve been trying to refine for days now. Please help refine it further.

First, everyone who has a truck or boat is encouraged to lend this resource for transport of goods. In Davao City, keep the loaded trucks steadily moving out of the DPWH Panacan. It is important for supply to steadily get to the affected towns. The Army trucks cannot do it all. There are just too many towns and, depending on the distance, getting there from here takes anywhere between two and fifteen hours.

Army trucks need some downtime for maintenance, too. For over a week, military transport resources has been overtaxed – what with the preemptive evacuations before the storm hit and the relief runs immediately after.

Distributors in the business sector should get their heads together and design a schedule of dispatch that would allow for at least four trucks getting to each town everyday. For big towns or hard-hit towns, four trucks may not be enough, but the important thing right now is to keep their arrival steady. Then the people there can start believing that everyday, like the sun coming out of the sky, four trucks will come. Then, there is hope.

Four trucks for each of the 44 towns. That’s 176 trucks. The Army does not have that many trucks. Even if some of them can manage two or three trips, the Army still does not have that many trucks. Help!!!

It’s a time and motion problem. Some of you are good at this. (And when you’re down working out the numbers, go find real trucks and drag them to DPWH Panacan for loading. I notice that many seem to think they have done their brotherly duty by putting stuff together and calling in the Army to pick it up. Uh, try calling LBC maybe. Or send it by Philippine Post.)

Solution number 2: Identify places in these towns where satellite distribution can be set up. These could be trustworthy barangay captains that have demonstrated management skills and can call in both elected and traditional leaders to help him. This could be faith-based organizations or the local church, or maybe schools and offices where there is yet some semblance of organizational structure. Find community-based organizations and personnel because it is important for survivors to take part in their own recovery. Recovery is hastened by meaningful work. More importantly, devoting one’s day in seeing to the needs of those we care about lends to us the impetus to do more, do it better.

Initially, these distribution satellites might need policemen or maybe even soldiers, but as people slip into the routine of things and come to be sure that the supply will be steady, daily interactions would spontaneously surface emergent norms of access and lines of authority. Survivors would, in other words, start to normalize and harmonize community life.

Eventually, as the tension in the affected areas would ease and getting the supply from the DRRM centers to the distribution satellites could be done by local transport – the habal-habal or the padyak. In fact, in the less disrupted towns or portions thereof, local transport resources could actually be utilized now to serve the distribution satellites I am proposing. There are habal-habal drivers operating in these towns. They can be paid to deliver. They might not be as charming as the LBC pick up boys, but hey – they can do the job. Really.

Let’s just accept that the DRRM centers are overwhelmed already. Sooner or later, LGUs have to establish workable and more efficient distribution relays anyway. It’s time to look to the people themselves as their partners, rather than as constituents that require service. It’s time to involve people more in efforts for their own recovery.

Okay. There you go. I actually have a third solution, one involving survivors forming one line and passing packs from one end to the other until everyone is holding a pack. In my castle in the sky, that could work. Here on earth, it can’t. Yet.

Got a better idea? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Gail Ilagan heads the Psychology Department and the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services at the Ateneo de Davao University.)

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