Photo: SOS Children's Villages Assessment

Swift, Agile Disaster Support Strengthens Long-Term Action

Posted on December 16, 2022 by The Patterson Foundation
When​​ a disaster strikes, attentions quickly turn toward providing essential resources and services to safeguard the people and communities left in its wake — and providing them quickly. Through years of strengthening communities following myriad natural and human-made disasters, The Patterson Foundation has learned that even immediate disaster responses offer opportunities for long-term impact. Giving experienced, capable organizations agility in how they use their funding can help disaster responders and those they serve to meet emerging needs throughout the recovery process.

Communications technology is often one such need that comes into focus following a large-scale disaster. Establishing safe, secure communications resources, such as internet connectivity and access to mobile devices, strengthens responders' ability to coordinate relief efforts while giving people ways to connect with vital human services and loved ones to tell them they're safe from harm.

Thousands throughout the islands of the Philippines learned this firsthand when Super Typhoon Rai, also known as Odette, hit their nation in December 2021. Heavy rains, landslides, and widespread flooding killed hundreds of people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The storm left roads and bridges impassable while knocking out power and internet connectivity in more than 60 cities, delaying vital, life-saving response efforts.

The particular regions hit by this typhoon don't normally bear the brunt of natural disasters, and many lacked sufficient emergency supplies prior to landfall. Spreading out those challenges among several islands added another layer of complexity to relief efforts.

Enter NetHope, one of The Patterson Foundation's longtime partners in strategic disaster funding. For two decades, NetHope has partnered with global leaders in technology and philanthropy – including Microsoft and Facebook – and a consortium of more than 60 leading international nonprofits to design, fund, and implement innovative approaches to solve humanitarian challenges in the developing world through the use of technology.

Shortly after Typhoon Rai's landfall, The Patterson Foundation made a $100,000 contribution to help NetHope strengthen recovery efforts in the Philippines. While this contribution's purpose was focused on providing emergency telecommunications equipment, NetHope was able to apply the funding flexibly to achieve that goal — ensuring its approach was informed by the reports of those on the ground with a firsthand sense of what would be most useful.

With the storm's impact spread across communities on multiple islands, NetHope's member organizations verified the need for wireless platforms to restore essential communications channels. Based on that guidance, NetHope used the funding to provide connectivity resources such as Wi-Fi networks, satellite phones, and radio kits for these member organizations, government response agencies, and other NGOs responding to the disaster, along with personnel and training to support these resources.

NetHope moved quickly to install these systems in the region, reconnecting these people, organizations, and communities to sources of help and hope. The Wi-Fi networks established through The Patterson Foundation's funding have powered hundreds of unique connections in the year following Typhoon Rai's landfall, helping people connect with emergency services, healthcare and education programs, government agencies, ​​and other humanitarian resources.

When the near-term response to Typhoon Rai concluded, NetHope donated these telecommunications networks and equipment to its member organizations based in the Philippines, boosting their communications capacity for the long term. These systems stand ready to serve the Philippines when its people are faced with the next disaster. Additionally, the contacts NetHope made during its response efforts will inform capacity-building efforts throughout the affected areas to strengthen their resilience for future disasters.

Reality continues to reinforce the fact that disaster can take many — and often unpredictable — forms, each with its unique nuances to address during recovery. As NetHope's impact through Typhoon Rai illustrates, an agile approach to disaster funding can foster informed, responsive recovery efforts that support community resiliency and preparedness.

Learn more about NetHope's work in communities around the world.

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