Hope delivered across the river: UNICEF supporting isolated children affected by Paeng
Children from Lebak, Sultan Kudarat experiences the impacts of severe tropical storm Paeng, affecting their overall health, access to education, and survival.
Three days short before their harvest, Roldan Vecilles, 16, dismally looks at their corn plantation --- totally washed out by flood and mud the morning after Paeng (International name: Nalgae), a severe tropical storm, hit their community in Sitio Mangasngas, Barangay Pansud, Lebak Sultan Kudarat.
Roldan, a Grade 11 Honor Student from Purikay National Highschool, is the second child of the Vecilles family who lost their livelihood from the storm. His family of five relies on their corn plantation to support their daily needs and in financing his and his siblings’ education.
“We never expected it. This is the first time that we experienced this kind of storm and destruction”
“We never expected it. This is the first time that we experienced this kind of storm and destruction,” said Roldan’s father, Alexander. “There were eight families who planted corn and were anticipating the harvest. This is our main source of livelihood and now it’s gone,” he said.
The families from Sitio Mangasngas recall the night of the severe storm; the loud sound of gushing water in the river, the cries of the animals being washed by the flood, and the thud of falling trees. River waters rose and residents experienced chest-deep flooding. Despite being scared for their life, all they could do was help each other.
“I’m just glad that nobody was hurt, and my family is safe. We are moving forward, little by little”
Alexander knew beforehand that living beside the river could pose danger to his family, so he established their house two kilometers away from the Tran River. This has become the evacuation place for her sister and her three children. “I’m just glad that nobody was hurt, and my family is safe. We are moving forward, little by little.” said Alexander.
Mytone Caraso, the purok leader who grew up in Sitio Mangasngas said that the extreme flooding was unprecedented. Living in the sitio for 48 years, he observed that even if there was just a little or no rain, water still gushed into the river, affecting the community’s livelihood and children’s schooling.
For these children, going to school means waking up before the break of dawn and crossing the 8-foot-deep river using a makeshift bamboo raft attached to a metal cable.
About 16 children 18 years old and under reside across the Tran River and more than half of them attend school daily. For these children, going to school means waking up before the break of dawn and crossing the 8-foot-deep river using a makeshift bamboo raft attached to a metal cable. Roldan and his brother Angelo, 7, prepare early for school because they need to walk for 30 minutes to almost an hour to catch their first period.
Alexander said that his children would insist on going to school even when it rains. He remembers covering Roldan in cellophane just so he doesn’t get wet. However, there are instances that children in their purok would end up not going to school if heavy rains occur and river water rises. They can’t risk the children from possible accidents while crossing the river.
Children are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change even if they are the least responsible for it.
Climate change manifested through drought, heavy downpours, and extreme flooding can cause disruption to sources of clean water, destruction of sanitation facilities, and loss of personal hygiene items. Unsafe water and lack of sanitation can worsen malnutrition and stunting in children. Without potable water and appropriate sanitation and hygiene facilities, children, especially those already experiencing malnutrition and poor immune systems in far-flung areas are at higher risk of water-borne diseases.
To prevent possible public health crisis, UNICEF immediately responds to provide Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services to assist and support these children and their families in emergency situations. Roldan’s family was among the recipients of the UNICEF WASH kits distributed to the isolated communities of Lebak.
Climate change crisis is a child rights crisis.
It deprives children of their chances to grow healthy and happy, worse, it can ultimately cause disease and even death. Such crises will not affect everyone equally. Children will suffer more than adults, with those in the poorest and most vulnerable communities carrying the biggest burden. As climate change disrupts the environment, children are being compelled to grow up in an increasingly dangerous world, a crisis that threatens their education, development, health, nutrition, survival, and future. #
UNICEF and partners continue to work on the ground in areas most affected by climate-related disasters to help children and families recover. You can help by donating at donate.unicef.ph.