and terribly worried, Jeanette Perdigon, 17, stares helplessly
at her three-month old infant. Little Gerald appears listless
and pale, with eyes sunken deep into their sockets. He has
It has been four
days since the typhoon Yoyong smashed the province of Camarines
Norte. As wind gusts increased to 220 kph, residents of coastal
barangays of Mercedes left their homes for evacuation shelters
in public school buildings. Mercedes is no stranger to typhoons
lying on the perched on the Pacific coast of the Philippines.
Yoyong had grown
from a tropical depression to a super typhoon in just a few
days time. It was the fourth and the strongest typhoon to
hit the Philippines in two weeks. Meteorologists’ eyes
widened as Yoyong’s spiraling shape loomed larger than
the whole of the Philippines in their satellite screens.
Wind and tides
struck barangay San Roque around midday wiping out several
homes along the beach. Thankfully all residents had been evacuated
from the nipa huts in the sand. San Roque is home to the poorest
families of Mercedes; mostly transplanted there from original
homes that were destroyed in previous typhoons.
As the weather
system passed many returned to their homes to survey the damage
and start repair work. But for those who lost everything another
danger emerged. By 6 December, 300 people made homeless by
Yoyong were still camped in Mercedes Central school wondering
what their next step would be. In the last four days two child
evacuees had died from dehydration due to diarrhoea. The school’s
modest water and sanitation facilities were overwhelmed.
Jeanette fled with
Gerald and went to this elementary. Jeanette was alone with
her newborn and was not breastfeeding. In the damp and overcrowded
conditions of the school it was impossible to obtain clean
water to prepare a bottle for her son. Jeanette was alone
and worried, her child growing weaker by the hour. Food and
medical supplies were non-existent.
quickly to the emergency and sought the help of the South
East Asian Airlines (Seair) to fly badly needed food and medicines
to the province. Local leaders like Governor Jesus Typoco
and Mayor Pepito Lim accompanied UNICEF project officer Dale
Rutstein to the evacuation center.
Here, they found
Jeanette and her son. Testing for severe dehydration, the
officer pinched a finger-full of skin on Gerald’s stomach
and let go. Instead of snapping back instantly the small fold
of skin seemed fixed and then slowly flattened out: a sure
sign of severe dehydration. Jeanette and her son were whisked
off to the local health center for emergency rehydration therapy.
As Jeanette and
Gerald receive medical assistance, life is gradually coming
back to normal in Mercedes. The people of San Roque barangay
will re-build their homes again and hope that the next typhoon
is many years away.