The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) initiated a Mobile Civil Registration Program (MCRP) for survivors in devastated areas of supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) to help restore their identities and access to public services, benefits and social programs.
The UNHCR in the Philippines will deploy up to 20 mobile civil local registrar offices across Leyte and Samar in the next three months where residents may obtain vital civil documents, according to UNHCR Country Representative Bernard Kerblat.
The MCRP program aims to help up to 100,000 survivors obtain birth and marriage certificates. Those who lost their loved-ones to supertyphoon Yolanda can also secure death certificates.
“This documentation project which is free of charge is one durable solution we identified for vulnerable populations and communities to continue to access state welfare, education and employment,” said Kerblat in a statement.
The UN agency said that up to 50 percent of Yolanda survivors lost their civil documents when the storm surge brought by Yolanda swept away their belongings on 8 November 2013.
The typhoon affected some 14 million people across the Visayas and killed more than 6,000.
The UN agency, primarily tasked to ensure that protection mechanisms are in places in post-disaster or conflict situations, noted that the lack of civil documents makes survivors “vulnerable to discrimination and exploitation that may lead to violations of their rights as citizens of the state.”
“Unless the affected population is given identification through the reconstruction of their birth certificates as a first step in rebuilding their lives, relying on the resiliency of the Filipino people will not be enough and a lot of them will remain vulnerable,” Kerblat said.
Regaining such documents would enable Yolanda survivors to access government services like pension through the Social Security System, the conditional cash transfer program, education and even employment, the UN agency said.
The project is being implemented in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS Inc.), a local Non-Government Organization.
The UNHCR has been undertaking the same program for those displaced by disasters and conflict across Mindanao since 2011, with some 200,000 served to date.