Child evacuees face unseen threats after Typhoon Odette
Children in evacuation centers are at risk of malnutrition due to lack of food and unsafe water
Reymon Polleros, 7, likes staying in the evacuation center. “It’s big,” he says. “And it’s not cold here.”
In the past two weeks, Reymon and his family have been taking refuge in Bantilis, the newly built two-story evacuation centre in Cagdianao, Dinagat Islands. The family had to evacuate as Typhoon Odette (international name: Rai) battered the province on December 16, 2021.
“Our house was small and made of lightweight materials,” says Reymon’s mother, 37-year-old Monilyn. “None of it was left standing after the typhoon.”
Despite the comfort that some children experience in Bantilis, staying in the building is not without challenges. Evacuees need more support aside from relief goods. The safety of children is a serious concern as they are prone to neglect and abuse without proper interventions.
Like most buildings and houses in Dinagat Islands, running water in Bantilis was cut by the typhoon. “We have to bathe and wash our clothes in a stream some distance from here,” says Monilyn. “The source of potable water is even farther.”
The youngest of her four children, 3-year-old Randel, suffers from malnutrition. “He cannot speak as well as other children his age, and he weighs less,” says Monilyn. “When the barangay health worker checked on him in October, he only weighed 11 kilograms.”
Randel needs follow-up care urgently. Monilyn is not sure if Randel is moderate or severely malnourished. She also fears that his health might have declined during his stay in the evacuation centre.
Although Bantilis hasn’t had any medical emergencies so far, cases of acute gastroenteritis have been reported in three villages in Cagdianao and in five of the seven municipalities of Dinagat Islands. The provincial disaster risk reduction and management office reported 123 cases of gastroenteritis and expects outbreaks in the coming days due to poor access to clean drinking water.
Need for shelter
At the moment, the Polleros family is not able to leave Bantilis until they’ve rebuilt their home. “We don’t have money for it,” says Monilyn. “My husband plants cassava, and the crop has been destroyed.”
Of the 54 families that took shelter in Bantilis during the typhoon, nine continue to live in the building. The weather continues to be rainy, causing delays in rehabilitation efforts.
Reymon spends most of his days playing with other children. The classes that he was taking through modules have stopped because the schools in the province have been damaged or turned into evacuation centres. The modules were also drenched in rain.
“Bantilis has a child-friendly space on the second floor beside a breastfeeding room, but we can’t use the facilities because we don’t have the necessary materials,” says Juliet Dongos, a social worker with the municipal government. “We’re also using the second floor of the building as an isolation facility for COVID-19 patients.”
Reflecting on the situation, Dongos says, “People need proper shelter. They have to go back to their homes soon. They need as much help as they can get.”
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