Thousands of children and their families are sleeping out in open areas after Typhoon Bopha flattened entire villages in the worst-affected parts of eastern Mindanao, Save the Children says.
The aid agency says emergency shelter materials are needed urgently as evacuation centres overflow and families either live in open areas or attempt to repair their roofs and walls with whatever material they can find around them.
“Children have a right to feel protected regardless of their situation, and a sturdy house is important for them to feel safe at night. Sleeping in open areas also makes children more vulnerable to abuse and trafficking,” said Anna Lindenfors, country director for Save the Children in the Philippines. “Save the Children is working to distribute emergency shelter materials for families as soon as possible.”
In the worst-affected areas, Save the Children spoke to children whose homes had been damaged or destroyed. An 11-year-old girl, Kimberly, from Davao Oriental said: “We tried to fix our house with plastic sheets and scraps of wood we found in the area. But the floor was completely damaged as well, so I slept in my chair at night.”
“My father and older brother fixed part of the floor, but I am scared that another storm like that would come, so I still sleep in my chair.”
Kimberly is among 1.6 million children affected in the storm, and her fear of rain and storms are shared by many who were unprepared for Typhoon Bopha. Save the Children, along with UNICEF and Plan International are now urging all government agencies, local representatives and communities, as well as humanitarian partners to be attentive towards the needs and rights of children in emergencies. Together with the government, these aid agencies have also started registering children and making temporary care arrangements when needed.
Save the Children has been responding to the needs of children and their families through the distribution of pre-made aid packages containing toiletries, blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets and cooking pots and pans to nearly 2000 families. Additionally, Save the Children has also begun preparations to provide emergency shelter items, including tarpaulins and repair kits containing hammers, pliers and nails to over 6,000 affected families in Compostela Valley and Agusan del Sur. Child-friendly spaces will also be set up with toys and art materials that children can play, draw and paint with in the day. Volunteers and staff running these spaces will also provide psychosocial support to these children.
“These are some of the poorest and most vulnerable children, and they many have been through a terrible ordeal of losing their family members, relatives, friends, homes and belongings. It is important that we give them a sense of normalcy as soon as possible,” said Anna Lindenfors. “A safe place to play in the day and a roof over their heads at night is vital to achieving that.”
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