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Philippines: vigilance made all the difference

Written by Norman Gagarin, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programme Officer for Save the Children, Philippines

While the residents of Mindanao were still fast asleep this morning, Typhoon Bopha approached the south-eastern coastline of the Philippines, packing 210km/h of wind and heavy rain. The winds and rain were so strong that it was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

The good news is there were no reports of people being swept away in their sleep, despite being a much stronger typhoon than Typhoon Washi last December, which struck in the wee hours of the morning as well.

Over 1,200 people were killed in that disaster, most of them children.

A different story

The fact that people were vigilant made all the difference this time. Yesterday, I watched as the people of Mindanao prepared for the arrival of Typhoon Bopha, or Pablo as it is known locally.

Families stocked up on food, water and other essential supplies, while others packed up their most precious belongings and headed off to evacuation centres all over the island. This is a stark contrast from the scene last year, where many failed to heed warnings from authorities to evacuate.

“I’m happy that my parents brought my siblings and me here before the storm,” a child at an evacuation centre in Cagayan de Oro told me. “We feel safe here from the storm.”

Cagayan de Oro was one of the worst-hit cities in Mindanao after Typhoon Washi. Many children displayed signs of distress following that disaster and required psychosocial support from the government and aid agencies like Save the Children.

Indeed, it’s a relief to see that both children and adults were more vigilant ahead of this typhoon, the worst storm to hit the Philippines this year. Mindanao doesn’t experience typhoons often, and as a result, the residents here are less prepared than others.

Preparation

Still, immediate relief like food, water, medicine and other household items will most likely be needed. Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is my area of expertise and we know that water supplies may be contaminated.

With large swathes of Mindanao flooded and without electricity, assessing the extent of the damage and bringing water trucks to evacuation centres will be tricky for the authorities and aid agencies alike.

Save the Children has been working in the Philippines since 1981 and has decades of experience responding to emergencies in the Philippines.

We mounted large-scale emergency responses to Typhoon Washi in 2011 and Typhoon Ketsana in 2009 and we have a stockpile of pre-made aid packages that can be distributed within 48 hours to those who need it.

Please help children caught up in emergencies

 

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