Roy’s tale of survival
by Anna Villanueva
ILIGAN CITY, Philippines; January 5, 2012 – With the way his face lights up when someone talks to him or the ready smile he instantly offers, one wouldn’t think that 10 year old Roy* is facing the greatest test of his life.
In the early hours of December 17, 2011, floodwaters charged through a number of barangays (villages) in Iligan City in Mindanao, brought about by Tropical Storm Washi (local name: Sendong).
At around 12 midnight, Roy was jolted awake from his sleep, being swept away by the uncontrollable current of floodwaters that entered their tiny house in Barinaut, Iligan City.
“I don’t know if I fell asleep or lost consciousness that night. All I remember is waking up, being saved at sea. I was in a barge with other survivors,” Roy shares. He was pulled to safety by rescuers in the morning of December 18.
Searching for family
Survivors from the village of Barinaut are having a hard time identifying Roy. The boy offers this possible explanation, “We just moved to Barinaut from Barangay Digkilaan three months prior to the disaster. We still don’t know most of our neighbors and still don’t have a lot of friends in the village.”
Since being rescued, Roy is being taken cared of by the daycare workers assigned at the evacuation center.
Risk factors facing children with missing parents
These children suffer from unspeakable pain from the loss of parents or are traumatized by the frightening experience of flash flooding, mass panic, and trying to survive the chaos that a natural disaster brings.
When children are left unsupervised by parents or when are not reunited with their relatives, they can become vulnerable targets of possible violence and abuse. They can turn into victims of child trafficking, child labor or sexual exploitation.
Protecting children with missing parents
UNICEF also works to address other immediate needs, including medical attention that separated children may have. Children are assisted and referred to partners and agencies that can give the appropriate help needed.
Counseling for family members who need help in taking care and providing support for reunited children are given, to ensure that children will have a loving and caring family environment.
It is also important to restore a sense of normalcy to displaced children, amidst all the uncertainties that they are facing after the disaster. Family involvement is highly encouraged to protect the psychosocial wellbeing of children. UNICEF has also provided recreation kits, which include toys and musical instruments, to children in evacuation centers so that they can play again, express themselves, and begin to get a sense of normality back in their lives.
Update on Roy
To get more information on now to help children in Iligan and Cagayan de Oro be reunited with their families, go to http://donate.unicef.ph