Kathlyn Kissy Sumaylo
Even at a young age, Kathlyn Kissy Sumaylo believed that she has always been fated to do development work. Memories of disasters in the 1990s, she says, have inspired her work.
Sumaylo was in grade school when a trio of natural disasters hit the Philippines: a 7.7-magnitude earthquake that devastated the island of Luzon in July 1990, the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991, and a tropical storm in November 1991 that caused flash floods and landslides in Ormoc, a city in the Visayan province of Leyte, where more than 6,000 people died as a result.
Sumaylo became seriously interested in disaster risk reduction, however, when she was a graduate student at the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. She became acquainted not only with different regional initiatives on community-based disaster risk management but also with ecosystem practices in the Mekong region during her field exposure as well as research assignment at the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center in Bangkok.
Using her academic and development experiences in gender and environment, Sumaylo’s break came when she led the International Organization for Migration’s first vulnerability assessment to natural hazards in the northeastern region of Cambodia. She stayed in the remote province of Ratanakiri for months, conducting assessments in mostly inaccessible indigenous villages, including in the upstream and downstream paths of the Mekong tributary.
The assessment gave strong recommendations on institutional capacity-building for local governments that shaped IOM’s first operational disaster risk management project in the region, which Sumaylo also managed. She later published her research assessments and policy insights into disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation, and earned a certificate of advanced studies in disaster risk reduction from the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland in 2010.
Returning to the Philippines, Sumaylo successfully engaged local governments to use disaster and climate vulnerability assessments for community-level development planning and project implementation for national and international agencies. As disaster risk reduction program manager at the Local Government Academy, she also facilitated a national knowledge sharing forum and interagency consultations that led to the formulation of a DRR-river basin management framework strategy around the government’s priority river basins.
Between 2011 and 2012, Sumaylo published her research study on the implications of public land claims to intrahousehold gender relations in the Philippines, and supported NGOs on partnerships and project development for strengthened political participation of women in Southeast Asia and Philippine administrative titling reforms. She also consulted with international development organizations such as DanChurchAid on the 2011 flooding in Cambodia.
Sumaylo currently serves as the project coordinator of the climate change adaptation component under the Disaster Preparedness and Response Program of the U.N. World Food Program in the Philippines. She is also a member of Norcap, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s standby roster. Norcap’s mandate is to support international capacity, and in particular the United Nations, by providing experts to international operations in all stages of crisis.