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Philippines: we don’t know when the next typhoon will come

“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, 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 in overcrowded, makeshift evacuation centres, while a further 770,000 are still feeling the effects of the 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 vain if a new typhoon develops.

Awaiting a new arrival

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 she met on Tuesday who was eight months pregnant.

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.

No ambulance, no incubator

Grace became alarmed when the woman 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 potassium deficiency and a lack of fluids and electrolytes.

There was no ambulance available at the evacuation centre so Grace arranged for her 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 life-saving piece of equipment for a premature baby, so the decision was taken to drive the mother a further two hours into the night to the district hospital.

Grace hadn’t heard this morning how the mother was getting on and whether the baby had been born but she is determined to follow up and we can only hope that they are both OK.

Tragic consequences

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.

This evening, I heard from our driver, Jun, of another mother with a ten-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 while she was taken to the health clinic.

Tragically she never made it. The floodwaters washed her away from the unsafe boat that was transporting her.

Continued support

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 actually numb us to the reality of those individual lives.

Here, the stories are few and far between but every story still tells us of preventable struggles these floods have caused.

While the images of flash floods and headlines have passed, we must continue to support those still in need especially as we don’t know when the next typhoon will come.

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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