At a glance: Philippines

In the Philippines, UNICEF gears up response to Mount Mayon eruption threat

© UNICEF Philippines/2006/Bito
Evacuated children prepare for dinner in a school room that doubles as their temporary home due to the threat of eruption at Mount Mayon in the Philippines.

By Alexis Rodrigo

MANILA, Philippines, 23 August 2006 – More than a week after a high alert (level 4 out of 5) was declared at Mount Mayon in the Philippines province of Albay, the number of evacuees from the active volcano zone continues to rise.

UNICEF estimates that 9,000 families – including close to 20,000 children – have fled their homes for 28 crowded evacuation centres, most set up in local public schools. Should Mount Mayon erupt, the number of evacuees is expected to swell to over 74,000.

According to a UNICEF team that has assessed the situation of children in the area, the evacuation centres are already overstretched and living conditions would grow much worse in the event of an eruption.

© UNICEF Philippines/2006/Bito
UNICEF Philippines dispatches water supplies, medicines and other emergency aid for evacuees from areas near Mount Mayon, which has been threatening to erupt.

‘Life is difficult here’

“UNICEF as part of the UN system is mobilizing resources and planning out its assistance to alleviate the already difficult and unsafe living conditions of children and their families in Albay,” said UNICEF’s Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Nicholas Alipui.

“Actions and decisions taken now will save lives, while the pre-positioning of needed supplies will make timely and effective response possible when the volcano erupts,” he noted.

Evacuees say it is becoming increasingly difficult to cope with the cramped facilities. “We need to line up to use the toilet. Usually there are five people in line,” said Karen Bustillos, 12.

© UNICEF Philippines/2006/Bito
Evacuees from the area around Mount Mayon line up for food and other essential supplies in an evacuation centre in Albay, Philippines.

“Life is difficult here,” added Babylyn Navia, 36, a mother of five children between the ages of 3 months and 17 years. “We have no work but still need money. The room is so crowded and so many children are getting sick. I’m worried that, with so many children, disease can spread and they can become sick quickly.”

Risks for evacuated children

UNICEF’s assessment report flagged the following problems that could become hazardous, especially to children:

  • Only 4 out of 10 children in the affected area are immunized against measles, a deadly disease that easily spreads in congested conditions
  • Most water facilities in the evacuation centres have not been tested for safety, nor are there enough toilet facilities
  • The food supply is not assured, and the variety of food is limited; some fathers have been returning to their land in the danger zone to harvest crops
  • Early childhood care and development services have stopped altogether
  • Schooling has been disrupted as well, though the public schools serving as evacuation centres continue to hold classes.

In coordination with the provincial and municipal governments and other partners, UNICEF has sent emergency supplies to the centres – including water containers, water-purification tablets, essential medicines and vitamins, blankets, sleeping mats and tarpaulin tents.

UNICEF is also delivering water tanks, tools and materials to build latrines, early childhood care materials and other assistance to families affected by the Mount Mayon eruption threat.



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