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Philippine floods: this is now home for the evacuees

Written by Emi Navalta, Communications Officer, Save the Children, Philippines

The date is Friday 17 August 2012. Ten days after the south-west monsoon floods.

Here are the directions to the evacuation centre at Landayan, San Pedro, Laguna – from the National Highway, you turn left down a one-way street, constricted by vehicles and stalls selling clothing and other merchandise.

Left turn to the church, where several people line up for holy water.

At your right are more stalls selling foodstuffs, including cooked food. Further beyond are their regular customers – the people at the evacuation centre.

At the far end of the street to your right, six inches of floodwater persists. Breathe deep, and the smell of waste and urine invades your nose.

Walk up to the living space of over 300 families in the evacuation centre, and you try to avoid puddles of mud and trash along the way.

Your new home

Now imagine eating, sleeping, and staying here for the next three months, until the floodwaters, which submerged your cherished home, completely recede.

This is what the evacuees have to live with everyday. From ten metres away, you could already smell the stench due to poor sanitation and hygiene in and around the evacuation centre.

A few metres closer, floodwaters have turned stagnant and are now breeding places for mosquitoes. Children are forced to walk everyday through the mud, dirt and the smell to get to school.

Children and their families have no choice but to cook, eat and sleep here with the mosquitoes, the heat and the cold – until the floods subside.

No sanitation

Sanitation and hygiene in evacuation centres are ever-increasing problems, not only for the camp managers, but especially for the people who actually have to live there for several months.

While hygiene promotion sessions always remind people to do proper waste disposal, handwashing and using purified water for drinking, sanitation facilities and processes such as adequate toilets, a steady supply of running water, proper waste bins, and regular camp cleanup systems are non-existent.

Save the Children is now exploring the possibility of cash-for-work activities for families living in the evacuation centres to improve the water, sanitation and hygiene situation, while also providing regular income to the beneficiaries until they are back in their homes.

If you would like to support our work in emergencies, please donate to Save the Children’s Emergency Fund, which allows us to respond quickly when disaster strikes.

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