|© UNICEF Philippines/2011/Santos|
|Sixteen-day-old Luenard with his parents in the Bulacan Sports Complex, a temporary shelter for flood victims.|
By Angela Travis
CALUMPIT, Philippines, 7 October 2011 – Baby Luenard was just 10 days old when a flood came rushing through his home town of Calumpit in central Philippines, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake.
Managing to grab a handful of clothes for the baby and themselves, Luenard’s parents left the rest of their worldly possessions behind – submerged beneath the roiling waters. They are now living temporarily in the Bulacan Sports Complex, which currently houses 100 families.
"We are just glad we are all safe, but we have lost everything,” said Luenard’s father, Gilbert, 27. “I am a construction worker, and I am worried all my tools are now lost.”
Anxious to return
The flooding was caused by two typhoons that struck the area in rapid succession, resulting in the deaths of 90 people, with many more missing. While many families fled to evacuation centres to escape the rising waters, some chose to stay behind, living in the upper floors of their homes.
Although their current accommodations provide them with the basic necessities such as food, water and decent sanitation facilities, Gilbert is keen to return home.
“I checked the house yesterday, and the water inside is now knee-height,” he said brightly. “I hope we can return in two or three days and begin the process of putting our lives back together.”
Risk of disease
UNICEF has distributed over 3,000 water and hygiene kits to the flood-affected communities of Bulacan and Pampanga, in Central Luzon. The hygiene kits contain soap, toothpaste, buckets and other important supplies to help prevent the spread of disease – especially among children. The water kits provide purification solution so that families can always have potable water.
Visiting the affected areas, UNICEF Country Representative Vanessa Tobin observed that the government relief operation was going well. But she also issued concerns over health issues. “Large areas of stagnant water are a danger in many ways,” she said. “Risks of dengue, risks of diarrhoea and other infectious diseases are a big threat to young children.”
Speaking to this issue, UNICEF Philippines, Water and Sanitation Chief Tim Grieve underscored the importance of the UNICEF-supplied hygiene kits. “Hygiene kits save lives,” he said. “Providing soap for body- and hand-washing in flooded areas is essential for reducing diarrhoea and infectious diseases, which can be life threatening for young children.”
UNICEF provides support
As the waters recede, families are beginning to contemplate returning home and putting their lives back together, but in a predominantly rural area, where much of the agricultural and aquacultural produce has been destroyed, communities will need assistance to get back on their feet.
UNICEF is working to help communities beter prepare for these calamities, so that they will be better able to react to and protect themselves from the devastating effects of climate change and severe weather.