By Olivia Zinzan, Emergency Communications Officer deployed to Philippines Floods Response
“Ninety percent (90%) of the people affected by the floods in Metro Manila have now returned home” – the start of my briefing from our Emergency Team Leader, Edwin, in the Philippines doesn’t surprise me. The city looks completely dry and in the 18 hours I’ve been here there hasn’t been a drop of rain.
But, I’m told, there are neighbouring regions that remain flooded and almost 200,000 people are still sleeping every night in overcrowded makeshift evacuation centres whilst a further 770,000 are still feeling the effects of these most recent floods.
Water has receded in areas and some people are starting to clear the mud but communities are apprehensive and concerned the clean up effort may be in vein if a new typhoon develops.
I met with our emergency programme coordinator, Grace, who had returned from visiting the evacuation centres yesterday. She told me the story of a woman, 8 months pregnant, who she met on Tuesday. What should be an exciting stage of pregnancy, making final preparations for a new arrival, was for this woman becoming concerning and dangerous.
She had been forced to flee her home because of the floods and was now living in an overcrowded unsanitary evacuation centre with no privacy at all. Grace was alarmed by her condition as she had started to have contractions. Grace swiftly recognised that the woman was in active premature labour – her contractions were fairly close together. To make matters worse, the pregnant woman was suffering from a deficiency of potassium and a lack of fluids and electrolytes. There was no ambulance available at the evacuation centre so Grace arranged for the woman to be taken by the Save the Children team to the local health centre.
Things didn’t get better there though. On arrival, the team realised there was no incubator, a potentially lifesaving piece of equipment for a premature baby so the decision was taken to drive the mother a further 2 hours into the night to the district hospital.
Grace hadn’t heard this morning how the mother was getting on and whether the baby has been born but she is determined to follow up and we can only hope that they are both ok.
Save the Children is highlighting the issues that pregnant and breastfeeding mothers are facing in the overcrowded evacuation centres which have been brought to our team’s attention during these recent assessments.
I heard from our driver Jun this evening of another mother with a 10-day-old baby who was born just before the floods hit. The mother was taken ill and left her baby in safe hands at the evacuation centre to be taken to the health clinic. Tragically she never made it as floodwaters washed her away from the unsafe boat that was transporting her.
Thankfully, these floods have not claimed many lives but often, when we do hear of large numbers of deaths caused by natural disasters it can in fact numb us to the reality of those individual lives. Here, the stories are few and far between but each story still tells us of preventable struggles these floods have caused. Whilst the images of flashfloods and headlines have passed, we must continue to support those still in need especially as unfortunately, we don’t know when the next typhoon will come.