Esnara: The cluster approach in DRRM

The Magangan Stan

LAST week, we discussed how nutrition is related to DRRM. Today, I would want to clarify the cluster approach in Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM).

Cluster approach is an internationally based system where gaps in disaster response is supposed to be eliminated or improved. It aims to strengthen coordination of all response groups to attain a common objective or goal which was set for a certain incident or disaster.

In the international setting, there are 11 recognized clusters, or groups of responders. They are (1) Camp Coordination and Camp Management, (2) Early Recovery, (3) Education, (4) Emergency Telecommunications, (5) Food Security, (6) Health, (7) Logistics, (8) Nutrition, (9) Protection, (10) Shelter, and (11) Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

The Philippine standards combined some of these clusters and at the same time, has added new ones. For instance, the health cluster adopted nutrition, WASH, added medical and public health, and mental health and psycho-social support services as their Sub-Clusters. Thus, these all four clusters are under the supervision and management of the Department of Health (DOH). Aside from that, new clusters were added such as management of the dead and missing, international humanitarian assistance, law and order, food and non-food items, and search, rescue and retrieval.

But why do we need these clusters in times of a disaster?

The cluster approach is primarily used to ensure effective response operations by proper coordination of all the teams who want to respond in a certain incident or disaster. Let’s take in Relief goods for example. The dilemma in handling relief goods is at its peak when all the donors of every kind comes and wants to donate at the same time. But this can be controlled using the cluster approach. (And much more effective with the implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS), but let’s concentrate on the cluster approach first).

Simply assign a leader to organize food and non-food items cluster (if not assigned yet) and instruct all your donors to be a member of such cluster. Conduct your meetings, and make schedules on whom shall donate and what will someone donate on a particular date. This would improve misinformation and oversupply of un-needed reliefs for the situation.

Sometimes, the cluster approach is also used to manage international assistance. For instance, when the World Food Program (WFP) wants to donate some communication equipment to the local government unit (LGU) who cannot function well due to being a victim of the disaster, they would just seek for the emergency telecommunications cluster, meet with them, and ask for the needs that they could provide over a period of time.

This is the reason why, in my previous column, I want to ask the NNC and the DOH to follow the national disaster response plan in times of emergency or disasters. Because if both of these agencies will claim leadership of the nutrition cluster in the Philippines, nutrition assistance from local and international agencies might not be maximized or might just be wasted in times of a disaster.


The structural fire last Friday at Betag, La Trinidad, Benguet was another eye opener in disaster preparedness for everyone. We are just happy that the La Trinidad community still cares for each other. As such, I would just want to thank all the volunteers who contributed by suppressing the fire, visiting and caring for the displaced occupants at the La Trinidad Evacuation Center, giving donations, and offering homes as a temporary shelter. Salamat at mabuhay po kayo!


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