Courage of One Poverty Quiz: Southeast Asia

Daniel ZoltaniUncategorized

Now that you have completed the Courage of One Challenge with The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part I Southeast Asia Quiz you want to know more? Here are some more details about the the poverty challenges in the region. 

Topic: High Incidence and Devastation of Natural Disasters in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is extremely susceptible to natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, tsunamis, landslides and floods. In fact, from 2001-2011, Southeast Asia on average had more than 70,000 people killed annually by natural disasters. This represents 65% of the total worldwide deaths from natural disasters (3).

“33 of the 35 deadliest tropical cyclones on record have occurred in southern or southeastern Asia – due to a confluence of meteorology, geography, population density, poverty and government” (2). Geographically, the region is positioned along both the seismically active Pacific Ring of Fire and the Typhoon Alley. The region has high population density, up to 2900 people per square mile. High population and weak central government, such as the case in the Philippines lead to difficulties in coordinating effective evacuations. Evacuation from islands is especially difficult. Poverty and lack of infrastructure are also causes. People try to take shelter in sturdier buildings, but even these structures are often not able to withstand storms (2).

Problem: Natural disasters disproportionately affect the poor
Natural disasters in SE Asia disproportionately affect the poor: “the effect of disasters on human lives tends to be the lowest in high-income countries. In Asia-Pacific high income countries, about 1 person in every 1,000 people was affected by disasters and 1 in 1 million died during the 10 years from 2001 to 2010; in low-income countries nearly 30 in 1,000 people were affected and 52 in 1 million people killed” (3).

Furthermore, natural disasters can cause people to fall back into poverty. According to Dr. Mitchell of the Overseas Development Institute, “We have good evidence to suggest that the disasters cause reversals in progress in reducing poverty. They drop people back into poverty if they have escaped, or they might make people newly poor… They destroy crops, they destroy the facilities that people rely on, like health facilities, they make it hard for people to move around because of damages to roads. They could cause people to pull their children out of school, and they can cause malnutrition, things like that.” (1)

Solution: Field partners work in both the immediate response and reconstruction process
The Philippines experienced two major natural disasters in 2013. On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit central Philippines mainly Bohol & Cebu, other nearby provinces, killing over 200 people, injuring hundreds and causing widespread destruction through landslides and aftershocks. Hundreds of clients from WPF’s partner organization in the Philippines, Negros Women for Tomorrow Foundation (NWTF) were displaced and thousands didn’t have access to livelihoods.

Then in November, just on the heels of the earthquake, Super Typhoon Haiyan (known locally as Yolanda) struck Leyte, Bohol, Samar, Panay & other parts of Negros Occidental in the Philippines. This was the strongest storm to reach landfall in recorded history, with winds estimated as high as 195 mph (2). 6,000 people died, mostly in Leyte Province, specifically in the city of Tacloban. 300,000 people were displaced from their homes.

The storm hit the Philippines hardest in the Visayas region. This is the same region where the WPF project area is located. NWTF had 6 branches wiped out in Leyte & Northern Cebu including the three WPF supported branches. They lost one staff member in the storm. Additionally, 86 NWTF clients perished in the storm and 139 spouses and dependents of NWTF members died in storm and aftermath. Many more lost homes and businesses.

NWTF responded to both disasters with immediate relief assistance through food packages, clothing and medicine to NWTF clients and their families. They reached 600 affected clients after the earthquake and 65,000 after the typhoon. Additionally, they froze current loans. 169,608 out of total 185,672 NWTF clients as of end 2013 had insurance coverage through NWTF. NWTF helped clients access this insurance as well as other social services. They also provided new housing reconstruction loans and bridge loans to help clients rebuild homes and business.

According to NWTF Chairman, Ms. Wilhelmina Gonzales – “We discovered that our clients are capable of accepting this event for they became stronger, more self-confidant and more determined to recover their losses with NWTF support. These were the traits that we were trying to develop among our members that in the process of building their small enterprises, they too will gain the skills and confidence in facing adversities that will come their way…It is heartening to know that sad events like this typhoon brings out the best in our clients and we are comforted by the fact that with the motivation and technical support of NWTF, our clients will survive this crisis.” (2013 NWTF annual report).

Another recent example of natural disaster in SE Asia was the arrival of category 5 Cyclone Ian in Tonga. The storm hit the island group of Ha’apai in January 2014. It was estimated that nearly 80% of the homes in the most severely affected area of Ha’apai were destroyed. WPF’s partnership with South Pacific Business Development (SPBD) was focused on the project community in Ha’apai, Tonga.

Immediately following the cyclone, SPBD took several steps to rebuild their organization and serve their clients. First they suspended all loan collections in the effected regions for a minimum of 5 weeks. SPBD conducted damage assessments of 250 clients to determine needs for goods and relief supplied. They also secured a new office space and received disaster relief funds from 2 organizations providing disaster relief.

Tie Back to WPF: WPF’s strategic support to partners’ reconstruction and recovery efforts
WPF has worked with both SE Asia partners affected by the natural disasters over the past year to provide strategic support towards reconstruction for both the partner and their clients. In an emergency meeting right after the storm, NWTF board approved the release of PHP10 Million (~$222,222) for relief assistance to staff and clients who directly affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda. NWTF also began to evaluate the amount of loans to write-off including in the 3 branches supported by WPF. WPF was able to convert the $333,441 of no-interest loan funds it had provided from 2011-2013 into grant funding in order to help rebuild the devastated portfolios. Overtime, with substantial intervention and its clients determination, NWTF has been able to recover and provide ongoing support to its members.

NWTF has always valued credit plus services (such as dental, health education, business training, scholarships and capacity building programs) to compliment the financial services they offer clients. To this end, just prior to the earthquake & typhoon, WPF had signed an agreement with NWTF for $32,400 in grant funds to support the pilot of two maternal health clinics. The project was put on hold in the wake of the storm but as of summer 2014 the renovation has been underway. If successful, NWTF would like to have one clinic for every few branches.

Finally, as the first project with NWTF came to a close, WPF focused the second project on Typhoon Yolanda affected areas. Over the next 3 years, WPF will provide NWTF with $634,535 in grant funding to reach 8,379 new clients in three new branches to be established in East Samar. The southern tip of Samar is where the storm made first landfall. The area has suffered massive destruction and these funds will help with the recovery process.

In addition to working with NWTF in the Philippines, WPF worked with our partner SPBD in Tonga on the reconstruction process there. WPF released the last tranche of funds ($69,825) in the existing project early in order to help with reconstruction of homes and microenterprises in Ha’apai and continued project growth. Some of these funds will be allocated towards SPBD’s recovery loan program in Ha’apai which allows for larger loans of $2,000 TOP per member (USD $1,070) and refinanced loans. Many resting members have come back to take these recovery loans


  1. Natural Disasters Keep People Poor
  2. Why So Many People Died From Haiyan and Past Southeast Asia Typhoons
  3. UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific – Statistical Yearbook for Asia and the Pacific 2011