UNHCR launches registration program for Yolanda survivors to avail aid
MANILA, Philippines — The United Nations Refugee Agency has initiated a civil registration program for typhoon survivors in areas devastated by supertyphoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) five months ago to help restore their access to public services.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Philippines will deploy up to 20 mobile local civil registrar’s offices across Leyte and Samar in the next three months where residents may obtain vital civil documents, according to UNHCR Country Representative Bernard Kerblat.
The program aims to help up to 100,000 survivors obtain birth and marriage certificates, and those who lost loved ones to the typhoon to also secure death certificates.
“This documentation project which is free of charge is one durable solution we identified for vulnerable populations and communities to continue to access state welfare, education and employment,” said Kerblat in a statement.
The UN agency, which has been actively involved in relief and recovery operations in the disaster zone since day one, said up to 50 percent of typhoon survivors had lost their civil documents when the storm surge brought by Yolanda swept away their belongings on Nov. 8.
The typhoon affected some 14 million people across the Visayas and killed more than 6,000.
The agency, primarily tasked to ensure that protection mechanisms are in places in post-disaster or conflict situations, noted that the lack of civil documents makes survivors “vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation that may lead to violations of their rights as citizens of the state.”
“Unless the affected population is given identification through the reconstruction of their birth certificates as a first step in rebuilding their lives, relying on the resiliency of the Filipino people will not be enough and a lot of them will remain vulnerable,” Kerblat said.
Regaining such documents would enable typhoon survivors to access government services like pension through the Social Security System, the conditional cash transfer program, education and even employment, the UN agency said.
The project is being implemented in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS Inc.), a local NGO.
The UNHCR has been undertaking the same program for those displaced by disasters and conflict across Mindanao since 2011, with some 200,000 served to date.
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