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Concerns grow at threat to displace Manila flood evacuees

August 15 2012 - Christian Aid is deeply concerned by reports that the Filipino government plans to demolish the homes of informal settlers along waterways, evicting and relocating more than 100,000 families.

Whilst forced relocation of those living in flood areas and along waterways is seen by some as the only solution to the on-going threat of disaster, Christian Aid says there is risk people will be sent to unsuitable locations.

It wants a long-term response that ensures any new settlement includes land rights, and proper infrastructure, as well as employment opportunities.

Thousands of people come to Manila in search of jobs, living in precarious shanty towns close to rivers and lakes that quickly burst their banks during the typhoon season. Continuous downpour last week led to landslides and flash floods, which killed 95 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. 

In the past, evicted informal settlers have been simply left to look for other areas to rebuild their homes, or sent to distant resettlement areas with poor facilities and employment prospects. Often such settlers have quickly had no option but to return to the city’s shanties.

‘Women, men and children living in informal settlements have a right to housing and appropriate relocation,’ said Ted Bonpin, Christian Aid Country Manager for the Philippines. ‘Simply destroying existing structures will not address the problem and instead will leave communities even more vulnerable.’

Christian Aid partner the Partnership of Philippine Support Service Agencies (PHILSSA) is working with government to ensure that unnecessary relocation is avoided and rights of the urban poor are observed.

Christian Aid is also supporting Urban Poor Associates, Socio-Pastoral Institute (SPI), Alyansa Tigil Mina and Samdhanaby, by providing food packages for flood affected informal settlers.

Disaster risk reduction work carried out in the recent past by a number of Christian Aid partners is thought to have contributed to the relatively low number of fatalities given the size of the disaster.

Eric Gutierrez, Christian Aid Policy Advisor said: ‘The results of past disaster risk reduction work were very apparent in these floods.  There were plenty of rescue teams, showing that the country was better prepared this time.

‘There were also evacuation centres, which means they anticipated the problems and made sure dry and safe places were ready and stocked up with clean water and basic food stuff, unlike before.

Christian Aid partners who are right there at the forefront of disaster planning as well as the relevant government agencies deserve some applause.’

The people of Manila and the northern provinces of the country are now bracing themselves for tropical storm Helen, which hit land north of the capital city last night.

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If you would like further information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson, please contact Jo Rogers at jrogers@christian-aid.org  or 0207 523 2460, or Melanie Smith at msmith@christian-aid.org or 0207 523 2416.  24 hour press duty phone – 07850 242950  

Spokespeople and photographs available http://www.flickr.com/photos/christianaidimages/sets/72157630955800034/

Podcast by Adrian Ouvry, Humanitarian Programmes Unit Manager, http://audioboo.fm/boos/912184   
Podcast by Emma Wigley, Press officer, http://audioboo.fm/boos/912145

Notes to Editors:

1. Christian Aid works in some of the world's poorest communities in nearly 50 countries. We act where the need is greatest, regardless of religion, helping people build the lives they deserve.

2. Christian Aid has a vision, an end to global poverty, and we believe that vision can become a reality. Our report, Poverty Over, explains what we believe needs to be done – and can be done – to end poverty.  Details at http://www.christianaid.org.uk/Images/poverty-over-report.pdf

3. Christian Aid is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of 100 churches and church-related organisations that work together in humanitarian assistance and development.  Further details at http://www.actalliance.org

4. Follow Christian Aid's newswire on Twitter: http://twitter.com/caid_newswire

5. For more information about the work of Christian Aid visit www.christianaid.org.uk