Taiwan

How a Flood-Prone Community Built Safer Streets for Vulnerable Families

By Avelene Chuang, Diplomatic Fellow at PADF. She works with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan. Before joining PADF, she served as a desk officer on Thailand and Myanmar affairs at the ministry. At PADF, she is especially focused on supporting projects sponsored by Taiwan.

A Guatemalan community is celebrating something that's made the whole community safer: a paved road and walkway.

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El Campanero is a low-income community in Mixco, Guatemala that is highly vulnerable to flooding and landslides. Instead of properly draining away, torrential rains erode the community’s steep muddy paths and create unsafe walking and transportation conditions for those who live along the steep embankments, including the elderly, young children, people with disabilities, and disadvantaged families. For thousands of Guatemalans living in poor and marginalized communities like El Campanero, the rainy season poses a serious danger to the residents’ lives, their homes, and prospects for a better future.

Guatemala is among the world’s most vulnerable countries to disasters. In Guatemala City alone, over 800,000 people are considered at high risk to landslides. Because of the country’s rugged terrain, many communities are built on precariously steep hillsides and are considered particularly vulnerable to disasters as a result of heavy rain, landslides, earthquakes, and volcanoes.

On September 23, 2017, community members inaugurated a newly paved road constructed largely by the community members themselves. For the first time, they can climb up and down concrete stairs using a secure handrail and walk along a road with drainage constructed to withstand the next severe storm.

For more than 500 of the neighborhood’s residents, the new road means improved access to their homes. It also means a weight lifted off their shoulders. Now, whenever rain falls it will be efficiently channeled down the hillside through high-capacity drainage canals and into the ravine below. Previously, the rain would have saturated the ground, eroded the soil, and toppled homes perched along the hillside. Community members on the steep hillside no longer have to live in fear of such events.

John Lai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Guatemala, celebrates with local leaders and PADF at the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 23.

John Lai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Guatemala, celebrates with local leaders and PADF at the ribbon cutting ceremony on September 23.

PADF carried out this infrastructure project with generous financial support from Taiwan. Through its project “Yo Me Preparo” (I’m Getting Prepared, in English), PADF has worked closely with the Municipality of Mixco to help residents become more resilient to disasters. With Taiwan’s assistance, PADF improved the ability of 36,000 people across Mixco to prepare for and recover more quickly from disasters. This work focused on building disaster resistant infrastructure, providing training to disaster response teams, and organizing disaster preparedness and response brigades. PADF investments also allowed residents of vulnerable communities to become certified disaster responders within the Guatemalan natural disaster response system (CONRED). PADF led community engagement and discussion forums that enabled residents to identify, map, and prioritize disaster risks and to develop their own strategies to reduce those risks.

Community members organized to widen the road, preparing it for pavement.

Community members organized to widen the road, preparing it for pavement.

Similar to Guatemala, Taiwan is highly vulnerable to landslides as it is regularly hit by typhoons and earthquakes. In fact, a World Bank report also places Taiwan as one of the world’s most at-risk countries to natural hazards. In light of this, communities across Taiwan have formed disaster preparedness and response brigades. These brigades are highly organized, trained, and equipped to deal with life-threatening events. Taiwan has also made substantial investments in disaster resistant infrastructure–including roads, bridges, and high-capacity drainage systems. These investments reduce the negative effects of disasters and allow the Taiwanese people to bounce back more quickly from extreme events.

As Taiwan has developed its own disaster resistant communities, it is also committed to helping international communities to mitigate the effects of disasters. Taiwan has partnered with PADF to sponsor disaster risk reduction projects across Latin America and the Caribbean, including in Haiti, Honduras, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, and Guatemala.

John Lai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Guatemala, delivers a speech at the inauguration ceremony.

John Lai, Taiwanese Ambassador to Guatemala, delivers a speech at the inauguration ceremony.

In Guatemala, Taiwan’s support through PADF enabled community members to obtain the necessary tools, machinery, supplies, and technical experts to complete the infrastructure construction project. Meanwhile, members of the community identified the street and selected the construction site based on the high level of danger it posed to those living there. They then provided the manual labor for widening the path, relocating electrical poles, excavating the drainage canals, and paving the walkway.

“What I consider most inspiring about this community is that women have really led the way throughout the entire process. Most of those doing the heavy lifting were actually women. Anyone who doubts the ability of women to build better, more resilient communities hasn’t met the women of El Campanero,” says PADF Technical Manager Lucia de España. “Every day, women and men worked side by side to construct this street. Today we celebrate their strength and dedication to creating a better future.”

An El Campanero community member excavates the road construction area.

An El Campanero community member excavates the road construction area.

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The El Campanero community thanks Taiwan for its financial support and PADF for coordinating the project and making their community a safer place. Ambassador John Lai of Taiwan to Guatemala also extended his appreciation at the event to everyone involved in the project to make it possible.

After five months of construction, community members have a paved concrete road and a sturdy 70-step stairway. Thanks to the partnership between Taiwan, PADF, the Municipality of Mixco and other local partners, the El Campanero community members can safely access their homes without looming concerns of insecurity during the rainy season.


PADF and Taiwan

Realistic Disaster Simulation Prepares Communities & Authorities

Guatemala is one of the most disaster-prone nations in the world. Between droughts, floods, volcano eruptions, earthquakes and landslides, Guatemala is geographically placed to experience a major disaster event more frequently than other countries.

And aside from its geographic placement, its weak infrastructure often amplifies the negative effects of weather hazards. PADF is working with local authorities in reducing the risk of disaster by making key changes to infrastructure and preparation.

But disaster events are often unforeseen. How can officials prepare to save more lives in the hours and days after a disaster?

In a simulation held by PADF on September 2 and 3, local disaster teams (called COLREDs) in Guatemala trained to respond to disaster situations. Local community members role-played as disaster victims, acting desperate with injuries painted on their skin, as COLRED members trained in first response and disaster recovery.

The simulation was part of the Yo Me Preparo project, funded by Taiwan.

More than 180 disaster response personnel - including firefighters, national police, and national disaster defense - were trained in the simulation. They learned about evacuation and security systems, first response, and emergency planning.

In addition, mechanisms were shown for saving the highest quantity of people possible in any disaster situation.

In Guatemala, communities built on steep hillsides are especially prone to experiencing landslides. Therefore, it was vital that COLRED members trained in excavating people and rescuing those who had been trapped inside their homes.

At the end of the day, participants were reminded of the importance of preparing for rainy season, when soil gets water-logged and loses its adhesiveness. Each community should work together to take preparative measures before the threat of a disaster, because Guatemala depends on its local disaster personnel to save lives.

PADF Hosts Regional Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction

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Moving Urban Communities Towards Resilience: Progress and Challenges

San Salvador, El Salvador (May 31, 2017) — The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and Taiwan, with the support of the Permanent Risk Management Bureau (MPGR) in El Salvador, will host a regional disaster risk reduction workshop. Titled "Moving Urban Communities Toward Resilience: Advances and Challenges," the workshop will take place May 31 to June 2, 2017.

Delegations from Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and El Salvador will participate in the event. During the meeting, participants, regional institutions and government representatives from El Salvador will exchange experiences about working in disaster management and disaster risk reduction.

The objective of the workshop is to share experiences and best practices for disaster management, with an emphasis on urban resilience. The goals is to create a regional framework to address natural disasters based on the ideas and recommendations of participants.

Central America and the Caribbean are highly vulnerable regions. Natural hazards combined with geographical, political, environmental, social, economic and gender vulnerabilities.        

Between the Managua, Nicaragua earthquake in 1972 and 2010, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) recorded natural disasters in 28 countries in the region. The total cost of these disasters was approximately 213 billion dollars and 309,742 deaths, affecting roughly 30 million people.

Given these risks, regional authorities must work together to reduce vulnerabilities and transform the socio-economic factors that prohibit communities from being properly prepared.

The regional workshop is part of the Taiwan-funded Yo Me Preparo project, which seeks to strengthen urban hillside communities that are vulnerable to floods and landslides. The project brings together universities, the private sector and members of the public sector to increase the resilience of the community by promoting climate change adaptation disaster risk reduction.

Since 2012, PADF and Taiwan have collaborated in countries throughout the region in dealing with emergencies and natural disasters. The Taiwan Regional and Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Program (PADF) has been a five-year alliance to promote preparedness and mitigation programs in six countries.

Maps, Drones Bring Life-Saving Information to Disaster-Prone Guatemala

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PADF, George Washington University Train Students to Map Using Mobile Phones

Guatemala City (March 10, 2017) — The Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) is working with faculty and students at George Washington University (GWU) to bring digital mapping tools to vulnerable communities in Guatemala. The goal is to make life-saving information available to community planners, humanitarian aid workers and residents. PADF is carrying out this work as a member of the global initiative called Missing Maps, which aims to improve disaster preparation and the delivery of humanitarian assistance by mapping the world’s most vulnerable places.

The Municipality of Mixco, Guatemala has vast areas of densely populated settlements located along steep hillsides that often lack adequate roadways, storm drainage, retaining walls or evacuation routes. These conditions make residents especially vulnerable during floods, landslides and other disasters.

A team from PADF and GWU will travel to Guatemala this week to teach students from Rafael Landivar University how to use mobile phone-based survey tools to collect information on household vulnerability, infrastructure and disaster preparedness. PADF is also using drones to capture high-resolution images of communities that can improve the identification of at-risk areas and facilitate the distribution of aid in a disaster. The Humanitarian Information Unit at the U.S. Department of State has supported these efforts by supplying additional high-resolution satellite imagery of targeted areas that are especially vulnerable to landslides.

“By putting open-data mapping technologies into the hands of local students, researchers and members of these communities themselves, we are building grassroots capacity,” says Aaron Van Alstine, Senior Programs Manager at PADF. “We’re empowering communities take a leading role in preparing for disasters.”

High population density, deforestation and land degradation make Guatemala one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world. Storms, landslides and floods were responsible for more than 90 percent of disaster-related fatalities in the country between 1990 and 2014.

“Many informal urban communities are literally not on the map, so planners ignore them or when emergencies happen they are hard to assist,” says Dr. Marie Price, Professor of Geography and International Affairs at George Washington University. “Mapping improves our understanding of life threatening conditions and identifies the households that face the greatest risk.”

Dr. Nuala Cowan, Assistant Professor of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) at George Washington University, supervises the pro-bono consultancy services that two GW students currently provide to PADF as part of their graduate program. Geography students Andrii Berdnyk and Sudie Brown will join Dr. Price and Dr. Cowan in Guatemala where they will conduct field assessments and trainings with local communities to improve the use of mapping tools for reducing vulnerability to disasters.

“Residents need to be part of the decision-making process where their welfare is concerned,” says Dr. Cowan. “Training on accessible technologies, understanding and mapping the risks in their own communities, increases local confidence, awareness and bargaining power from a community perspective.”

PADF is currently implementing a disaster risk reduction project in Guatemala funded by Taiwan and is expected to facilitate the identification of communities most vulnerable to natural hazards, especially floods and landslides.

In addition to training disaster-response teams and implementing small-scale infrastructure projects, PADF is organizing a series of mapathons that bring together volunteers from around the world to trace buildings, roads and other geographic information in Guatemala using satellite imagery. Once collected, this data is stored online and made freely available to the public, including humanitarian assistance organizations and other local groups.

For more information, visit www.padf.org/mapping.

Belize Communities Receive Tools, Training for Disasters

PADF Belize Project Director Minerva Pinelo and a representative of Belize National Emergency Management Organization pose for a picture with the donated equipment.

The Pan American Development handed over tools and equipment to the Belize National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) and to local first responders in the towns of for Dangriga and Hopkins Village in southern Belize. 

First responders received certificates after completing seven weeks of training in search and rescue, first aid and shelter management.

Funded by Taiwan, the Community Preparedness and Resilience initiative has assisted more than 14,000 residents in preparing for and responding to disasters. The year-long project trained and certified Community Disaster Response Teams, engaged local students about climate change, created hazard maps and early warning systems in each community and planted mangrove trees to mitigate coastal erosion.  

Each community response team is now equipped with a first aid kit and search and rescue bags. NEMO received equipment including a chainsaw, flotation device, burn kit, wheelbarrow and safety vests helmets and glasses. 

Shorlette Grant, Lynn Rodriguez and Oris Lewis were used their training as first responders during and after Hurricane Earl struck Belize in August.

PADF Trainees Assist Belize Government after Hurricane Earl

Shorlette Grant, Lynn Rodriguez and Oris Lewis assisted as the First Aid team in Hopkins, Belize.

Hurricane Earl made landfall in Belize City on August 4, 2016, causing millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure, as well as the tourism and agriculture sectors. The Southern coastal communities of Hopkins and Dangriga were better prepared to face the storm thanks to the Community Preparedness and Resilience Project, funded by Taiwan and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF). The project assisted over 14,000 residents of Belize’s Stann Creek District in preparing for and responding to disasters. Newly-trained and equipped Community Disaster Response Teams were on hand to assist their neighbors during and after the hurricane. The project also created hazard maps, flood gauges and strengthened early warning systems in each community.

Francis Zuniga (right), a newly-elected member of the Hopkins Village Council, assisted as Shelter Manager.

PADF project participants who received disaster preparedness and risk education training through the project have been supporting the Belize National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) following Hurricane Earl.

The Government Belize continues to assess the damage, but NEMO has declared that priority areas include:

  1. Search and rescue

  2. Medical care

  3. Shelter 

  4. Clearing of debris along the highways

  5. Restoration of utilities

  6. Inspection of airports and seaports

In addition, ongoing evaluations will determine the level of required support for affected vulnerable communities isolated by the mountainous terrain and flooded rivers.

David Cruz (left) joined NEMO as part of the Search and Rescue Committee

PADF and Taiwan have been collaborating with countries throughout the region to address emergencies and natural disasters. The Taiwan-PADF Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund is a five-year partnership to foster preparedness and mitigation programs. Community-based disaster preparedness projects have been carried out in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund has delivered assistance to more than 282,000 people in Latin America & the Caribbean since 2012.

Southern Belize Communities Better Prepared for Natural Disasters  

Taiwan and PADF training program benefits 14,000 residents

 Dangriga, Belize (June 30, 2016) – Thousands of residents of coastal Belize are better prepared for extreme weather and the effects of climate change after a yearlong program funded by Taiwan and implemented by the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF).

Through the Community Preparedness and Resilience initiative, launched in July 2015, PADF assisted over 14,000 residents of Belize’s Stann Creek District in preparing for and responding to disasters.

“We have engaged both communities through capacity building, contingency planning and ecological restoration efforts and increased awareness about disaster preparedness and climate change,” says Dr. Minerva Pinelo, PADF Belize Project Director. “It has been a great experience seeing residents take ownership of the project, become involved in building resilience within their communities and understand how climate change adaptation is key to the preservation of their livelihoods.”

PADF collaborated with communities and partners to carry out the following activities:

  • Trained and equipped local emergency response teams in Dangriga and Hopkins
     
  • Engaged students and teachers at seven schools with programs on climate change and disaster risk reduction
     
  • Launched eight public awareness campaigns aimed at protecting fragile ecosystems
     
  • Created hazard maps, flood gauges and strengthened early warning systems in each community
     
  • Partnered with the University of Belize to expand its Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Center and engage students in field work
     
  • Is collaborating with Hamanasi Adventure Dive Resort to plant mangrove trees to mitigate coastal erosion

Through a partnership with the University of Belize, PADF Belize facilitated a course on global positioning system (GPS) tracking and mapping. With support from Taiwan, the university received thousands of dollars’ worth of technical equipment, tools and software in order to build the capacity of its GIS Center. Using the software, the team was able to map vulnerable areas of coastline and create hazard maps listing evacuation routes.

“Working with PADF has been an educational experience,” says Veronica Escalante, a Natural Resource Management student at the University of Belize. “The hazard maps produced as a result of our data collection help make decisions and plan support systems to mitigate disaster that may occur in highly vulnerable coastal areas.  It has been a fulfilling and rewarding experience.

Belize is a low-lying coastal nation that is highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Rising sea levels, erosion, flooding and the degradation of valuable marine environments threaten local residents, as well as ecosystems that many Belizeans rely on for their livelihoods in the fishing and tourism industries.

“We must all prepare for climate change,” says H.E. Benjamin Ho, Taiwan’s Ambassador to Belize. “We are pleased that this partnership between Taiwan, PADF and Belize has given coastal communities a head start.”

PADF and Taiwan have been collaborating with countries throughout the region to address emergencies and natural disasters. The Taiwan-PADF Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund is a five-year partnership to foster preparedness and mitigation programs. Community-based disaster preparedness projects have been carried out in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund has delivered assistance to more than 282,000 people in Latin America & the Caribbean since 2012.

Taiwán dona a Honduras equipos de protección contra el ébola

La Tribinua | November 17, 2015

Tegucigalpa, (ACAN-EFE).- Taiwán donará hoy al Gobierno de Honduras varios equipos de protección para el personal sanitario habilitado para atender posibles casos de ébola que ingresen al país centroamericano.

La donación se entregará a través de la Fundación Panamericana de Desarrollo de la Organización de Estados Americanos y responde a una petición del secretario norteamericano de Estado, John Kerry, y otros líderes mundiales para abordar mejor la potencial amenaza que representa el ébola en las Américas.

En la ceremonia de entrega participará la ministra hondureña de Salud, Yolani Batres, la gerente general de Programas de la Fundación Panamericana de Desarrollo, Caterina Valero, y representantes de la embajada de Taiwán en Tegucigalpa.

Honduras no ha registrado hasta ahora ningún caso de ébola, según autoridades locales.

Donation of Protective Equipment for Prevention of Ebola in Honduras

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• Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and Taiwan deliver equipment to protect health personnel against communicable diseases like Ebola

• Donation is a direct response to the call of world leaders for increased preparedness for possible outbreaks of Ebola

Tegucigalpa, Honduras (November 17, 2015) – Through the cooperation of the government of Taiwan and the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF), the Honduras Ministry of Health received a donation of personal protective equipment for the prevention of Ebola in Honduras.

Each kit contains personal protective items that meet the rigorous standards of international health organization, including gowns, goggles, respirators, masks, gloves, biohazard bags, aprons, and other essential gear. According to international health experts, quick access to such equipment is essential to prevent the spread of the virus.

These supplies will provide protection for health personnel who are in contact with patients suspected of having infectious diseases, including Ebola.

The project is a direct response to a request from U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and other world leaders for increased international cooperation to better address the potential threat posed by Ebola in the Americas.

With support from Taiwan, PADF is procuring and delivering Clinical Care Kits to Honduras and other countries in the region including Panamá, Belize and Haití. In the event of an Ebola outbreak, the equipment can be quickly deployed to hospitals and other care facilities to protect medical personnel who treat patients with Ebola.

Honduras Health Minister Yolani Batres announced that the country has taken the necessary measures to prevent Ebola in response to the alert that occurred in several countries.

When deployed properly, these protective suits are instrumental in preventing infection, and international health agencies have outlined strict protocols for their use.

"To the best of our ability, we will continue working on emergency preparedness in the Americas by providing assistance and responding to local, high priority needs that may save many lives," said Joseph Y.L. Kuo, Ambassador of Taiwan in Honduras.

"This donation will enable Honduras health services to have protective equipment to prevent the transmission and spread of Ebola in case of an outbreak of this virus," said Caterina Valero, General Manager PADF programs. “PADF is grateful to the government of Taiwan for facilitating this cooperation with Honduras, and for quickly and efficiently responding to Secretary Kerry’s and others’ call for increased international cooperation for this purpose. It is humanitarian partnerships like these that help the region prepare for and respond to emergencies and express the true spirit of international solidarity.

PADF and Taiwan have been collaborating with countries throughout the region to address emergencies and natural disasters. The Taiwan-PADF Disaster Assistance and Reconstruction Fund is a five-year partnership to foster preparedness and mitigation programs. Community-based disaster preparedness projects have been carried out in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize. 

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    Mask, goggles, hood and apron. Credit: World Health Organization

Mask, goggles, hood and apron. Credit: World Health Organization

·      With the support of Taiwan, PADF procured 100 Clinical Care Kits to be distributed in the event of the introduction of Ebola in Latin America and Caribbean.

·      Seven Clinical Care Kits will treat one Ebola patient for up to 15 days.

·      Kits meet the rigorous standards of the WHO.

·      Kits contain gowns, goggles, respirators, masks, gloves, biohazard bags, and aprons, among other items.