In Tacloban’s evacuation centres, covering basic needs is critical
By Diana Valcarcel, Communication Projects Coordinator, UNICEF
As families struggle to cope with desperate living conditions, UNICEF and its partners try to stay ahead of malnutrition and disease by providing screening for children and hygiene kits for families.
TACLOBAN, Philippines, 25 November 2013 – A few weeks ago, the San Jose school was a place of learning for 3,000 children in Tacloban. Now converted into one of the many evacuation centres in the city, it hosts 350 families – 2,500 people of all ages – made homeless in the destruction brought by Typhoon Yolanda.
It's an extremely difficult situation for the community – mud is everywhere, families share classrooms as living spaces, and they struggle to cook their rice in the corridors. To make things worse, it's raining.
But even as they face so many challenges, people manage to smile. They are thankful for the help they receive, and they find creative solutions to problems – such as putting chairs together to build a bridge to cross from one side of the flooded courtyard to the other.
Following any emergency, it's essential to prevent child malnutrition, as many children have gone days with little or no food. At the San Jose evacuation centre, UNICEF and it partners are screening children for malnutrition. Along with the screening, they are also providing the community with hygiene kits and latrines to help cover basic needs and prevent the potential spread of disease.
Aprilyn is sitting on a bed in a classroom that is now home to eight families. She is fanning her little 4-year-old son, VJ, who is not feeling well. Aprilyn and her children have been in San Jose since the day before Typhoon Haiyan hit the town. Her house was destroyed, like so many others, and she is living here on her own with her two children, as she is separated from her husband. VJ and his sister Keynie went through the screening and their nutrition status is good.
Aprilyn is glad they have been screened, and for the hygiene kits. "They were so useful," she says. "We really needed them. We had nothing before."
Aprilyn worked as a physiotherapist before the typhoon. She wants the best for their children, and even in this context she lets herself dream for a better future. "We are receiving support, but we need much more," she says. "I would like to have a house in the future, and that my children are able to go to school."
At the end of the day, 94 children have been screened in San Jose. Only one had severe acute malnutrition, and at least three had moderate malnutrition. The rest had good nutrition status.
Ready-to-use therapeutic food is provided for severely malnourished children, and supplementary feeding for moderately malnourished children. All healthy children such as VJ and Keynie will receive micronutrients to prevent malnutrition, so they can be strong for the brighter future their mother hopes for them.