Philippines: One Year On After Typhoon Yolanda - Assisting Persons with Disabilities

On November 8th, 2013, a super typhoon (in Filipino, Typhoon Yolanda), the 30th named storm of the 2013 Pacific typhoon season, made landfall in the central region of the Philippines. Immediately after the typhoon struck, AAR Japan sent support by distributing relief goods and repairing homes in the most devastated areas of Northern Cebu, and in Tacloban City and Palo Town on the island of Leyte. While carrying out our emergency relief activities, we gave particular attention to assisting persons with disabilities (PWDs) - in which we have accumulated extensive experience in other countries. AAR continued providing aid until the end of October, 2014.

Pursuing the kind of aid only AAR could give

After the typhoon struck, there was no survey carried out to confirm the safety or conditions of PWDs in the above target areas. At that point, AAR stepped in, going door-to-door and documenting where PWDs lived and what kind of disabilities they had to ensure that nobody was left out from receiving emergency relief. In total, we collected information from 5,687 PWDs, and submitted the compiled data to local government units. In addition, AAR provided food and other relief goods to households with PWDs. During the goods distribution and door-to-door survey, we discovered that many PWDs in the target areas had lost their wheelchairs - their only means of transportation - due to the typhoon and tsunami. Moreover, governmental support for PWDs is still insufficient in the Philippines, and discrimination is a very real issue. As a result, PWDs are more likely to seclude themselves in their homes.

Providing tailored “legs”

In response to the plight that PWDs faced in the Philippines after the typhoon, AAR provided 40 wheelchairs and 27 walkers to PWDs with mobility difficulties in Tacloban and Palo, Leyte. To the PWDs, these wheelchairs and walkers are their “legs”. Therefore, it was essential to ensure that the type and size fitted each individual. Together with a Filipino wheelchair specialist organization, AAR had a “measuring session” to measure the length of each individual’s legs and assess their balance and posture. A “fitting session” followed, in which we adjusted the wheelchairs and had PWDs practice using them. Once we ensured the adjustments and correct usage, the wheelchairs were distributed. Afterwards, AAR continued to provide comprehensive support by conducting “follow-ups” to check if any of PWDs were having difficulties using their wheelchairs.

At the “measuring session”. In order to provide wheelchairs that fit each individual perfectly, we measured the legs of the PWDs one by one. (May 24th, 2014, Palo)


Sudan: Protecting Those Living in Mine-Affected Areas

Overcoming the conflicts and restoring hope

In Sudan, a peace agreement was reached in 2005, putting an end to the 21-year civil war between the north and the south. In 2006, AAR Japan started mine risk education.

When I visited a village called Shalalob to conduct a survey, I met a woman who was unable to take her child to a hospital due to a lack of money and a lack of access to a car. When she asked why we came to the village, we explained about mine risk education. She responded, “How come you are so eager to save our lives? Tell me where landmines are. I want to step on a landmine to put an end to my miserable life.”

The AAR team was shocked to hear her words. I realized that the lingering civil war had not only left landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) in Sudan, but also left the local people in poverty, despair, and sorrow.

One of our local staff, Amaeim (center), explains what landmines look like and where they are likely to be found by showing a poster. 


Uganda: Helping Landmine Victims Become Self-Reliant

In Uganda, located in Central Africa, there is still a massive amount of remaining landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) as a result of the 40 year civil war. AAR Japan has assisted landmine victims since 2009 in cooperation with the Uganda Landmine Survivors Association (ULSA). Today, in Yumbe District in North Uganda, where there remains a serious issue of mine pollution, we offer assistance to 25 victims to start high-demand businesses such as general stores and beekeeping. We also provide them with guidance about business management. The following is the report from Margaret Arach ORECH, the Director of ULSA.

Supporting small businesses of landmine and UXO victims

Ms. Amina CHADIRU (age 35) stepped on a landmine and lost her left leg when she went to collect edible termites in July, 1997. After the accident, she was unable to have a stable job and did not have enough income to support herself. However, since she has started selling secondhand clothes with the support from AAR and ULSA , her income has increased. “My store has become well known in this area and now, I am able to send my six kids to school”, she said with delight.

Ms. CHADIRU lost her left leg in a landmine accident. A bicycle and old clothes were provided to her to start a business (May 13th, 2014).