Real lives



Typhoon Yolanda diary: Jhana and Gwendolyn's story

by Kent Page, Senior Communication Adviser, UNICEF
16 November 2013

©UNICEF Philippines/2013/Kent Page
Jhana with her UNICEF hygiene kit in Tacloban

It's the end of my first day in Tacloban, Philippines – one of the cities hit hardest by Super Typhoon Yolanda. The television images show the destructive force, but it's so much worse when you are here in person.

The airport is a flurry of activity with military and cargo planes landing and taking off. We flew in on an AirAsia flight – at no cost as AirAsia has been providing free flights for humanitarian groups because they want to help. Among the passengers were some search and rescue dogs. They are also airlifting from Manila to Tacloban – again for free – 3,000 UNICEF hygiene kits that we are distributing today and tomorrow.

The overhead luggage compartments were filled with the hygiene kits and when we landed, all passengers were asked to carry two kits each off the plane to help in the offloading and all happily complied. A big shout-out to AirAsia for their generosity. 

UNICEF along with ACF distributed hygiene kits to 300 families who have lost their homes and are living in a church. I met an inspiring young woman, Jhana, who is 20 years old. Her home was washed away so she is sheltering at the church. Here's her story:

Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church in Tacloban has become a makeshift home for 300 families whose homes were wiped out by Super Typhoon Yolanda. Among them is 20-year old Jhana, a proud new mother of a very special daughter, Gwendolyn.

Gwendolyn was born just one week before Yolanda struck. "The typhoon washed away our home" says Jhana , as she breast feeds Gwendolyn amongst the hundreds of others sheltered amongst the church pews. "But she is my angel and I will do everything to make her life beautiful."

In the afternoon, UNICEF and ACF in partnership distributed 300 hygiene kits to the families sheltering at the church. Each hygiene kit contains essential supplies such as bath and laundry soap, sanitary napkins, toothbrushes and toothpaste, sufficient for a family of six. "We are feeling lucky today, says Jhana. "Tonight we have soap and toothpaste and will be able to wash our clothes!"

Jhana looks forward to the first church service she can participate in since the typhoon wreaked destruction across the Philippines. "I will pray for Gwendolyn to be happy and healthy, says Jhana.

"I have no home but i have my beautiful angel with me", she says as Gwendolyn happily continues to suckle, perhaps because she knows how lucky she and her mother have been to survive Typhoon Yolanda.

Today and yesterday, UNICEF and partners like ACF have distributed 2,500 hygiene kits and more are on the way. Air Asia is providing free airlift for 3,000 hygiene kits for UNICEF on their flights from Manila to Tacloban.

©UNICEF Philippines/2013/Kent Page
Jhana breastfeeds her daughter Gwendolyn in Tacloban



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