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About Big River Rising

On 7 August 2012, extreme monsoon rainfall devastated Metro Manila in the Philippines, forcing nearly 700,000 people to evacuate their homes.

Belen's story

To mark this year’s Earth Science Week and International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, Christian Aid produced Big River Rising, an inspiring story that follows 52 year old mother-of-five Belen de Guzman as she nervously monitors the rising water as it threatens Banaba, the informal settlement community where she lives.

Trained by our partner, the Centre for Disaster Preparedness, Belen helps coordinate the evacuation of her community while her own shantytown home disappears beneath the floodwaters.

Big River Rising explores how rapid and uncontrolled urban development, mountain deforestation, mining activities and global climatic changes are making Metro Manila and its poorest communities more vulnerable to flooding disasters.

  • If we really want poor people to understand future risks and have opportunities to thrive and not just survive, we have to collaborate with scientists.'

Chaotic weather systems

The documentary also explains how scientists from the Manila Observatory, Marine Science Institute and the National Institute of Geological Sciences are working with Christian Aid and local organisations to train poor communities to understand their geological environment, the hazards they face and their local chaotic weather systems.

This training enables them to develop life-saving early warning systems and community evacuation plans, or to make vital decisions whether to relocate or stay where they are despite the on-going risk to their lives.

BBC audio slideshow: How science is replacing pigs - flood forecasting in the Philippines

Allan Vera, Senior Programme Officer at Christian Aid in the Philippines said: ‘If we really want poor people to understand future risks and have opportunities to thrive and not just survive, we have to collaborate with scientists. This will help to protect poor people from future disasters and give them information to make the right decisions.’

Communities at risk

Across the Philippines, an estimated 30 million people live in informal settlements, many at risk of disasters including earthquakes, fires and floods.

Funding from supporters and UK Aid is helping Christian Aid to develop further partnerships between scientists, government and poor communities in the country’s most vulnerable urban and rural settings.

Typhoon town challenge: simulation game for primary school children, part of our 'Disaster strikes' teaching resources 

Watch the documentary

Watch the five-part web documentary and find out more about the communities we are helping by using our interactive maps.   


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