Typhoon Hagupit-sticken Dolores

Let’s face it, the Philippines is a country more prone to natural calamities and disasters. A recently published report by the risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft said that the Philippines has, unfortunately, 21 out of 100 cities that are most at risk from natural hazards. We have active volcanoes, there’s the constant threat of earthquakes, and most of all, we get more than our fair share of typhoons and super typhoons. Although we’re on the same list as Japan, our prosperous neighbour outranks us in terms of resilience.

When these calamities happen, the economy suffers and millions of lives are gravely affected.

Just consider how extreme weather events have altered Filipinos’ lives. Super typhoons that have continuously battered the country leave so much devastation and destruction. The impacts are all too familiar by now, which is why we— as a people— need to be prepared when the next disaster strikes.

When Typhoon Ruby hit the country last December, just a few weeks before Christmas, Greenpeace Philippines got organized and reached out to communities that were severely affected by the storm.

Media’s attention was focused on the town of Dolores in Eastern Samar, ground zero for Ruby. There were reports that described how farmlands were flooded, certainly a double whammy for farmers who had just planted their seedlings.

With our partners in Ecological Agriculture, Greenpeace helped pool together resources, equipment and the needed expertise to help the farming communities in Dolores get back on their feet.

Within days, farmers from Bohol, Cebu and Negros were mobilized to supply and deliver ecologically farmed rice seeds, root crops, vegetable seeds and organic fertilizers, to far-away Dolores. Just imagine the logistics! But aside from seed relief, there was also a concern for children’s nutrition.

Daniel Ocampo, Greenpeace Ecological Agriculture Campaigner, immediately asked partners for ideas on how to instantly feed the town’s youngest citizens.

“We have the seeds as long-term solution, but we needed something immediate to help the children. Most disaster food relief packages do not contain healthy and nutritious food,” said Ocampo. The farmers suggested MINGO, a powdered combination of rice, munggo (mung beans) and malunggay (moringa) making it a good source of Vitamins A, C, B1, B6, Potassium, Iron, Calcium and Zinc.

Mingo, a powdered combination of rice, munggo, and malunggay--a good source of Vitamins A, C, B1, B6, Potassium, Iron, Calcium, and Zinc.

The Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation (NVC) answered the call and took charge of the MINGO packs. NVC focuses on the manufacture and distribution of complementary food for infants, toddlers and young children. Their “Start Right, Live Bright Nutrition Program” promote the NVC Blend (branded MINGO) patterned after a formula developed by Food and Nutrition and Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology.

In fact, MINGO has surpassed the product specification set by the 2006 Special Committee on Nutrition Working Group of the United Nations for blended food, particularly for older infants and young children*.

A systematic and holistic 6-month feeding module in an NVC area in Tacloban has already proven the effectiveness of MINGO in combating malnutrition.

In total, Greenpeace, through NVC, was able to distribute 44,000 MINGO packets to more than 1,000 malnourished children, aged 6-30 months, to complement their diet for a month.

In the long term, growing the plants that comprise MINGO, on site and via ecological farming practices, is a more lasting solution. If only local governments encouraged their constituents to grow these plants and then set up a facility to produce and store MINGO packets, then food and nutrition for this age group, would be ensured. In fact, government can easily replicate NVC’s MINGO program to prepare for future emergencies, so that the youngest and the most vulnerable are protected from the impacts of super typhoons and other calamities.

*The UN recommendation per 100gm dry product is 400kcal, 14% protein and 6% fat.  MINGO contains 400.05kcal, 14.37% protein and 6.04% fat.

Virginia Benosa-Llorin is a media campaigner at Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in the Philippines.