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Overcrowding and poor sanitation in Philippines evacuation centres

Blog post   •   Aug 11, 2012 16:17 +08

Rihanna was born just hours before the sky darkened over Metro Manila, the Philippines. “The rain would not stop for next three days,” her mother, Rigina Omaña, said. “I was still recovering from childbirth, but I knew that I had to get out of the house before it was too late.”

“I packed a few things, and took my two children with me to my mother-in-law’s house.”

Over the next three days, Metro Manila and the surrounding cities and provinces were pounded with rainfall, the combined result of the lingering typhoon ‘Haikui’ and the southwest monsoon. Manila’s antiquated drainage system, overstretched even during small storms, could not keep up. According to the Philippines’ disaster agency, over 2.4 million people were affected within four days.

The move did not last long as water began to seep in, so the family had to move to an evacuation centre in a local high school. “It was very crowded when we arrive,” she said. “But I managed to find a spot in a classroom with about eight other families.”

According to authorities, there are about 370,000 people, 216,000 of them children, in 730 evacuation centres across the affected areas. Rigina said the living conditions in these evacuation centres are tough on the evacuees.

“Over 60 people share one toilet, and the toilet no longer flushes,” she said. “In order for us to bathe, we need to walk through the floodwater to get to the local well.”

“The smell in the classroom was very bad, and we could not stand it,” Rigina added. “There were a lot of people smoking. We were also close to the toilet, and the stench was unbearable.” So the family packed their things and relocated to the outside concrete stairwell. “We have been sleeping here for days.”

Rigina’s greatest worry is the health of her children. Five-day old Rihanna has developed rashes, while five-year-old Ricahanna’s medication for her congenital heart condition is running out. She requires a daily dose of medicine in order to cope with the condition, but both children have not been able to see a doctor yet.

“There is just one dose left,” Rigina said. “I don’t know how we will get more medicine, especially when I have not been working since the floods.”

“It’s difficult living like this. I don’t know when we will be able to go home.”

So far, Save the Children has reached 1,500 families with household items in Manila, National Capital Region and Laguna, and will be distributing 500 jerry cans of water and 2,500 hygiene kits in the coming week. The children’s charity will continue to assess the situation in other parts of the Philippines and will respond to the critical needs of affected children and their families.

Save the Children has been working in the Philippines for the last thirty years. Last year, we directly reached 822,000 children across the country, through our programs in child protection, education, health and nutrition, child rights governance and humanitarian crises.

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