As I did my monitoring rounds in the affected areas in Laguna, Philippines, I asked myself “Why are we responding and others are not?”
These facts are undeniable: Evacuation centers are still over-crowded; families are clamoring for more relief; although some evacuation centers are closing, their homes and communities are still flooded; health services are functional but regular visits are wanting due to the lack of personnel; and local government emergency funds are already depleted at the start of the typhoon season. The local government has gone a long way in responding to the needs of affected children and families. But are they effective and efficient in the response? Will they have the stamina to stand another flooding or beating of another typhoon?
There is a dominant sense of “wait and see” attitude during cluster meetings. Such lack of interest might have prevented the death of a young 20 year old mother who just gave birth before the flooding. She was in one of our monitored evacuation centers. While we all look for big numbers, the fact remains that children and their families continue to suffer in their flooded homes and evacuation centers.
Our Humanitarian Leadership course reminded us the following principles governing our code of conduct: Impartiality, Neutrality, Independence and Humanity. Big words! In reality this is what defines and distinguishes us.
As governments do not declare a state of emergency or do not appeal to the international community because they claim that they can manage, we still respond, act and advocate for a response that meets quality standards. Government action is defined by their obligation as duty bearers. Our actions are defined by the humanitarian principles. We should never lose sight that these principles do not only cover universality but also individuality.
While many wait and see whether governments are capable of responding, we act and engage to ensure that children’s welfare and their safety and protection are ensured. As we say it here in the Philippines, “children can’t wait”, especially during emergencies.