Devastation of Typhoon Yolanda still haunts children
MANILA, 17 December 2013 – UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, after a four day visit to the Philippines, said that he was deeply impressed by the spirit of the people and the communities working with the government, United Nations and other partners to rebuild their lives and futures.
The massive typhoon disrupted the lives of nearly six million children and destroyed the homes of 1.4 million children and their families.
"While I had followed the reports of progress closely from UNICEF's New York Headquarters, no statistics can adequately capture the physical and human challenges that remain," said Lake. "I came here not only to see the progress first-hand, but also to thank our UNICEF staff who have been here from the start and will continue to support the rebuilding effort for the long term."
UNICEF has mobilized experts from all over the world to support the relief effort, increasing the staff on the ground to over 100 people to coordinate a plan for recovery to strengthen services for children. This will include working with the government and partners in supporting back-to-learning efforts; strengthening the child protection system, working on reestablishing and rehabilitating water systems and the cold chain for delivery of safe vaccines and providing services to children threatened by malnutrition.
The children’s agency helped restore water to the city of Tacloban eight days after the Typhoon struck, and aims to assist in restoring safe water to more than 60 communities.
The Philippine government re-opened schools in the area on December 2, and principals and educators were already working to help children resume learning even in the absence of books and classrooms. All over the islands, communities are working together to clean schools; 193 classroom-sized tents have been erected for close to 20,000 students, and over 50,000 children are benefitting from UNICEF school supplies.
UNICEF is providing child-friendly tents for children and mother-baby tents staffed with trained volunteers are there to help children process the pain of their experiences. UNICEF is also working closely with teachers and administrators to support the challenges of working with children who have suffered great loss.
The children's agency has trained 44 police and social workers throughout the affected areas to identify children who have been separated from their families and may be in need of special care.
"None of this could have been done without the support UNICEF has received for the Philippines from around the world, especially from individuals and private sector partners through our national committees," said Lake.
Lake met and spoke with children, teachers and parents at numerous schools, learning spaces, child-friendly tents and vaccination sites in Leyte and Eastern Samar on Saturday and Sunday.
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Rita Ann Wallace