By Angel Saceda
It has been raining for almost a month now here in Manila, Philippines. This is the first time I have experienced so much rain – a big change from my previous post in Mindanao. Waking up to howling winds and torrential rain has been scary for me – I can only imagine how frightening this must be for the young and vulnerable children living in the region. It is no secret that Manila is prone to flooding, but to be in the middle of the chaos is completely different from what I had previously seen on the news. There is a sense of urgency, to always be on the move, to always be watchful. It has brought so many sleepless nights.
And we cannot seem to catch a break. Just last week, we had Typhoon Saola, and floodwaters had not yet subsided. It must be exhausting for the families who have barely recovered from the typhoon to cope with this incoming flood. In the worst-hit areas, ravaging floodwaters have reached more than five feet, with landslides burying houses, and strong winds bringing down electric posts.
Over a million people are now affected by the monsoon rains and flooding. Some are in evacuation centers, while others stubbornly opt to stay on top of their roofs, and yet others taking refuge in houses of relatives who have remained largely unaffected. It is in moments like these that we know disaster preparedness programs make a huge difference to the lives of those who are living in high-risk zones. Children who have been trained in our programs texted us to say they were able to assist their families in evacuating before the floodwaters came. The flurry of gratefulness warmed our heart amidst the dreadful weather.
I was overwhelmed at how packed evacuation centers are. But it was also heartwarming to see that communities are prioritizing children in cleaner areas of the center, where they can be properly taken care of, fed and to recover from the distress caused by the floods. However, there are huge gaps in relief goods entering these centers. According to our initial assessments, children and families need more blankets, clothing, and hygiene kits. It was evident: they left their homes with almost nothing.