Real lives



A true story of a mother’s love

© UNICEF PHI/2009/Francia
Lea Mariano, a mother of five, holds Bunso her youngest who she breastfeeds. Lea recalls her fight with the strong floodwaters while holding on to her baby.

by Marge Francia

It was a day that would be etched forever in Lea Mariano’s memory. On September 26, 2009, Lea and 90 million other Filipinos went about their day in the usual fashion—enjoying a typical Saturday with family, running errands, going to the mall or taking care of their babies. Little did they know that what would happen in the next hours would test their will and courage to fight for their lives and more so, of others.

Tropical storm Ondoy, international name Ketsana, ravaged the Philippine archipelago with torrential rain that went unabated for 12 hours. Dumping a month’s worth of rain in less than a day, it flooded 25 per cent of Metro Manila and affected more than 24 provinces around the country. Major bodies of water overflowed into homes of both the rich and the poor, children were separated from their mothers, the elderly became helpless against the raging floodwaters and people could be seen from the rooftops of their homes waiting for help to come. 

“The water started to rise so fast and before I knew it, I was walking along a thin cement wall holding my baby tight, finding anything I can hold on to so that we won’t be swept away. The rescuers couldn’t get to us because they water was so high. When we were finally safe, I saw my baby all wet and shivering. She has turned violet because she was so cold,” Lea said.

Lea, her husband Reynaldo and their five little children are more fortunate than others. According to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC), 204 people have died and 37, perhaps more, are still missing. Four days after the tragedy, the government has turned their rescue efforts into recovery and relief missions. NDCC also revealed that around 1.8 million people were affected, with 600,000 people being relocated in around 600 evacuation centers.

For Lea, surviving the storm is one thing, but surviving life in the evacuation centers is another matter. In the schools being used as centers, most times there is no electricity and no water, due to the floodwater which have inundated most of the country’s infrastructures. It’s a good thing Lea is breastfeeding her baby, which means that her 11 month old Bunso is protected from most illnesses. But sometimes, food for the breastfeeding mother is in short supply too, and she is not able to produce as much milk as she would like.

In times of emergencies, UNICEF becomes the voice for many Leas and Bunsos who desperately need help. Immediately following the flood, UNICEF provided about Php 6,908,330 million in supplies to address the urgent needs of affected children and their families. Within 24 hours of the storm hitting Manila, UNICEF supplied food and non-food items, as well as temporary shelter to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for distribution to flood-stricken communities like Lea’s.
Making an international appeal for US $3.5 million, in the coming weeks UNICEF and its partners will help ensure that more affected children and their families are protected from diseases, and that more nurturing mothers like Lea have a chance to rebuild their lives.


To make a donation to UNICEF's emergency efforts for children and families displaced by tropical storm Ondoy, click here.  UNICEF is also accepting cash and cheque donations which can be deposited into its Metrobank account: UNICEF C/A 066-7-06631209-3.  For donation inquiries, call (632) 758-1000 and 758-1442.





Related Links

UNICEF Executive Director meets victims of tropical storm Ketsana in Manila

UN Flash Appeal of nearly US$75 million for assistance to victims of Ketsana / Ondoy

UNICEF prepares additional $1.3 million relief supplies and readies for Typhoon Pepeng / Parma

UNICEF provides immediate assistance to children affected by Ondoy

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UNICEF in emergencies

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