Editorial: Method in generosity

(Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera)

BY NOW, some days after the Cotabato earthquake, institutions and individuals are mobilizing relief goods to transport to affected areas. The bulk of donations will most likely build up, and there will be the attendant challenges.

It is important for the public to know the extent of damage and the basic needs that are affected by it. Most prominent as of the moment in media are the damaged buildings, say, for instance that condominium and pension house in Davao City, understandably so because sensational images attract more media consumers. In the process, though, they could be information that serve little as far as illustrating the damage and the kind of need we must send urgently to the quake survivors.

But we can speculate along with the trickle of reports coming. The repeated jolts damaged severely a good number of roads and bridges in southern Mindanao. The consequent problem would be interrupted flow of some basic supplies—gasoline (needed for vehicles and generator sets), even electricity—in certain areas. Lack of electricity would mean disabled means of communication; residents won’t be able to charge mobiles phones. Perhaps, in some areas, restoration of power lines may take some time and, therefore, the immediate need would be rudimentary sources of power, say, generator sets and solar power sets.

There is really not much change as far as food supply is concerned in rural areas in post-quake scenarios; backyard vegetation and home cattle can well take care of that. Food is a problem in urbanized areas in post-disaster situations. With residents still under trauma, the usual domestic setup undergoes major changes. As observed, residents set up makeshift kitchens outside of their homes, even eat their meals and sleep under tents just beside their houses. Again, in rural areas where a good number of residents’ dwellings come as flexible, but sturdy hovels, earthquakes are hardly a threat, except in landslide-prone areas.

Water is crucial though. The supply lines may be damaged by the quake; even rural water sources such as springs and deep well water are likely affected. Residents would need water containers.

The lesson in all these, however, is that because we are not getting the clear picture of the damage the quake had caused in not a few areas in Mindanao, it might be hard to come up with better science on how to help. We’re getting the idea of the need for more tents because schools and government offices need to function outside of the old infrastructures. We’re getting that idea, at least.

But we do hope some private entities will take the task of coming up with better systems for relief collection, transport and distribution. Relief work must go beyond the mindset of mercy. Some method must be in place to make these acts of generosity more efficient.


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