Getting Up Off the Mat

On November 8, 2013 Mother Nature released the largest typhoon ever recorded on the Philippine Islands. Typhoon Haiyan, called “Yolanda” by the local population, came out of the west, ripping apart these beautiful islands with 13 million inhabitants, (particularly the middle section of the Islands called the Visayas) who are already extremely poor. 235 mph winds shredded houses, shattered windows; babies were snatched from the hands of their parents and thousands died. As of December 4, 2013, the Philippines government released this official report:

The destructive force of this typhoon was enormous. In December 2013, the Philippines government released a preliminary report identifying 5,719 deaths, 1,779 missing, 26,000 injured. More than 11 million people were affected (2.3 million families) 4 million people displaced (875,000 families) 1.2 million homes destroyed.

The fury of the storm was endured for several hours as residents swarmed into evacuation centers but the aftermath was beyond imagination. As typhoon hardened as these residents are the storm surge was something they had never experienced. The tsunami-like water took many lives in the islands of Leyte and Samar. Although many western areas were spared from the storm surge, high winds left a path of death and destruction.

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The once thriving city of Tacloban’s streets are littered with trash and there is no electricity available. Clean water is scarce. Municipal water supplies are reported to be contaminated due water pipes being broken by displaced communities fighting for survival. People looted stores and warehouses searching for food a few days after the typhoon. The chaos was beyond description. Since then, martial law and curfews have been implemented to restore order.

After the storm passed Cebu and Bohol, Abandoned Children’s Fund joined in a resource delivery alliance and collaborated with United Nations’ and government agencies to effectively reach citizens in need with relief supplies. Volunteers poured in to mobilize resources to help affected communities. It was an amazing effort, with one goal in mind – to bring hope for the storm survivors. Drinking water, ready-to-eat meals, water filters, medical supplies, clothes, cleaning kits, roof sheets, chainsaws, shoes and shelters were mobilized to storm victims. We also collaborated with the United Nations’ agencies and government agencies to effectively reach citizens in need.

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 Reaching out to help vulnerable special needs

As numerous relief agencies rushed to hard hit areas like Tacloban, other less populated areas are often overlooked. In one fishing village, where residents eke out a livelihood through fishing from plywood boats, the typhoon ravaged every facet of their lives. Their boats, homes and communities were damaged, tools destroyed and hopes crushed. Without the ability to make a living, many families will succumb to effects of poverty.

 As the main focus in the relief was shelter, food, water and health for the general population, seniors and children remains exposed to various issues that has not yet been addressed. These age groups need special attention and care as their needs and protection is often neglected. Before the typhoon there was a high incidence of human trafficking and child abuse. There is a real concern this will increase due to living conditions in unprotected huts, limited services and supplies, and un-separated camp latrines. Our project partner reports that there is an average of one latrine for every 63 people.

Additionally, special needs children have not been a priority. In general, 10% of population has special needs issues, whether physical disability or any learning/motoric limitations. Disasters create an even greater negative impact on their lives that requires intervention and assistance. At the Tacloban City Hall, we found young woman with the possibly of mild downs syndrome, roaming around the distribution warehouse. No one paid any attention to her or watched out for her safety.

After the assessments and discussions with various internal team members, partners, and various agencies, our project partner decided to focus on six locations where we believe we can best impact the rebuilding of communities. These locations will be coordinated by a hub in Cebu as well as support from a Manila office and global headquarters. In our rebuilding, we are focusing on assisting four specific groups, they are as follow:

 1. CHILDREN ~ Set up Children Centers in six locations

Psycho-social activities conducted through play/art/movie therapy

Trauma counseling for children

Protection from trafficking, exploitation, abuse

Protection and support of children with special needs

Basic health, nutrition, and education supplies needed

 2. FAMILIES ~Provide livelihood support through micro entrepreneurship and fishing boat  assistance

Temporary shelter assistance support

House rebuilding

Food and non-food-items distribution

 3. COMMUNITIES ~ Community clean-up

Construction of clean water source

Schools and orphanages repairs

Construction of latrines and sanitation facilities

Medical supplies support

4. VOLUNTEERS ~ Equip and manage volunteers to serve those in need

Mobilize skilled volunteers, such as carpenters, plumbers, engineers, teachers, counselors and others

Mobilize skilled volunteers, such as carpenters, plumbers, engineers, teachers, counselors and others

Mobile medical professionals to provide of healthcare

Our work is focused on  impacting a 100,000 lives in six locations.  The road before us is long, and we will need much help from above.  

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