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At a glance: Philippines

UNICEF and partners respond to flood crisis in the Philippines

© Reuters/Erik de Castro
A family seeks shelter in a makeshift tent while waiting to be evacuated during flooding in Bocaue, north of Manila. Thousands of people in the Philippine capital and nearby towns were marooned by floods after Tropical Storm Ondoy struck.

NEW YORK, USA, 5 October 2009 – More than 200 people have died, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes, due to flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Ondoy in and around metropolitan Manila in the Philippines just over a week ago. More flooding affected rural areas and caused some deaths this past weekend as another storm, Parma, struck primarily in northern Luzon province.

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UNICEF has expressed deep concern about the well-being of children and families affected by the floods, which have affected a quarter of metropolitan Manila, as well as other provinces around the country.

Emergency supplies

In response, the agency has been distributing pre-positioned emergency supplies, including both food and non-food items. Meanwhile, 90,000 packs of water-purification tablets and 650 water-purification kits have been shipped from UNICEF’s main supply warehouse in Copenhagen, Denmark, to aid displaced families who do not have access to safe water.

“This gives them a chance to have drinking water available, because what these [shipments] include is water vessels and also treatment for drinking water,” said UNICEF Emergency Logistics Specialist Jens Grimm.

UNICEF is now preparing $1 million worth of additional supplies to assist displaced children and families.

© Reuters/Erik de Castro
Residents wade in floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy in Cainta Rizal, east of Manila.

‘As if a tsunami came’

Some 3 million people, including 1 million children, have been affected by Ondoy and the subsequent flooding. Another 200,000 or more may have been affected by Parma.

UNICEF Philippines Chief of Health and Nutrition Dr. Marinus Gotink visited several sites in the northern part of metropolitan Manila last week. He and his team surveyed the damage caused by the area’s most severe rainfall in approximately 40 years.

“The people described it as if a tsunami came,” Dr. Gotink said. “In about one hour or less, the water levels rose up to four to five metres above their normal levels, which means that houses built alongside the river, bridges – everything was destroyed.”

Poor communities hard-hit

Dr. Gotink reported that informal communities of poor people living in shanties were among those hardest hit by the flooding.

“There are many poor people living alongside the river,” he said. “They are trying to rebuild and clean up with the very little they have. These people have lost everything.”

Although the floodwaters have retreated in most places, they have left a tremendous amount of debris and mud in their wake.

© UNICEF Philippines/2009/Wurzel
Scenes of devastation in metro Manila, after Tropical Storm Ondoy struck.

“The river is normally used as a garbage dump, so all that garbage came down the river, as well, and was dumped into trees, and on top of houses,” Dr. Gotink said. “It stinks, and people are trying with their bare hands and buckets to get the mud out of the place and dump it back into the river.”

Aid for the displaced

The lack of safe water is a major health concern and could lead to disease outbreaks in flood-affected areas.

UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Vanessa Tobin visited the flooded localities of Taguig, Mandaluyong and Quezon City on 29 September. She said she was shocked by the level of devastation in many communities but impressed by the generosity people have been showing to their neighbors.

Ms. Tobin noted that UNICEF is closely involved in delivering relief to displaced families, including hygiene kits, essential medicines, water-purification tablets, portable toilets, and family kits containing blankets and soap. “We are also helping the government and other humanitarian agencies to address gaps in the delivery of aid to those affected,” she said. 

As emergency relief efforts continue, UNICEF is concerned about the storm’s long-term effects on children, including health risks posed by the widespread flooding and inadequate safe-water supply.




30 September 2009:
UNICEF Emergency Logistics Specialist Jens Grimm discusses UNICEF's response to the massive flooding in the Philippines.
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5 October 2009: UNICEF Radio talks to 20-year-old flood survivor Joseph Cataan and UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Vanessa Tobin about the country's recent typhoon and floods.
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29 September 2009:
UNICEF Philippines Chief of Health and Nutrition Dr. Marinus Gotink discusses recent flooding caused by Tropical Storm Ondoy.
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