UNICEF Emergency Response helps Odette-stricken village in water crisis

Providing water, sanitation and hygiene support for affected families

Micaela Papa
Children carrying safe water in Siargao
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Ysa Cascante
13 April 2022

It’s raining again in Siargao Island, in CARAGA region, Philippines.

While most people’s instinct would be to get out of the rain, residents of the mountainside Barangay Magsaysay rush out to greet it, armed with pails and buckets.

Magsaysay has no running water, and the few open wells are either difficult to get to, or drying up. When the rain falls, it’s always a mad scramble to catch every last drop.

“The rain is like gold to us. Even if it’s evening or early morning, we would wake up and make sure to get every drop,” says Daisy Jumandos, a mother of four.

Daisy Jumandos, a mother of four from Bgy. Magsaysay
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Ysa Cascante
Daisy Jumandos, a mother of four from Barangay Magsaysay in Siargao.

Today however, excitement is mixed with a little fear. After all, Typhoon Odette (International name: Rai) also started with a few drops of rain, before intensifying into a Category 5 Super Typhoon and wiping out practically every house in Daisy’s entire village.

“My daughter begged me to evacuate to the elementary school like the other families did, in the belief that it was sturdier than our house. But it turns out the school was destroyed as well,” Daisy said.

Bgy. Magsaysay elementary school after Super Typhoon Odette
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Ysa Cascante
Barangay Magsaysay elementary school after Super Typhoon Odette

We just huddled in the kitchen as the wind tore our roof right off. My eldest was clinging to me, crying ‘Ma, when will this end?’ ” Daisy recalls between tears. “I could only say ‘I don’t know.’ ”

“We really thought we were going to die.”

The storm eventually ceased, but their hardships were far from over.

In addition to destroying their homes, the typhoon made the community’s dire water situation even worse. Water in the few open wells, already unfit for drinking, were further contaminated by mud and debris. Moreover, thatched and corrugated metal roofs alike – primary collector of rainwater – were blown away.

A makeshift rain harvesting setup using the thatched roof and corrugated metal as a gutter
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Micaela Papa
A makeshift rain harvesting setup using the thatched roof and corrugated metal as a gutter

The typhoon also destroyed the solar panels meant to power the barangay’s yet-unused water pump, the community’s only hope at a clean and sustainable water source.

Daisy became a water, sanitation and hygiene volunteer to help her community.

She watches over one of two water bladders – each with a 5,000 liter capacity – that UNICEF installed in strategic places to provide a clean and convenient water source for the 130 households in the mountain community. Residents also received pails, jerry cans, hygiene kits and water purifying tablets from UNICEF.

After the weekly bladder refill and quality test, adults and children line up to get safe drinking water. Many of Barangay Magsayay’s parents are out most of the day to make a living, and children are often left in charge of domestic tasks.

One of the children fetching water is 14-year-old Jasmine Antolin.

Jasmine trekking to the Water Bladder to refill her family's jerry can
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Micaela Papa
Jasmine trekking to the water bladder in her barangay to refill her family's jerry can.

The eldest of four, Jasmine is seen as a second mother to her younger siblings. She already bears the burden of her household’s water and sanitation issues.

Their home, speedily reconstructed after the onslaught of Super Typhoon Odette, still has no bathroom. Jasmine often has to assist her younger siblings in going out to the field just to bathe or relieve themselves.

Jasmine and her younger sister at their newly reconstructed home
UNICEF Philippines/2022/Ysa Cascante
Jasmine and her younger sister at their newly reconstructed home

Because of this, she knows how important – and how difficult – the daily trudge for water was before the bladders were installed.

“Before, we would have to trek to the well. The path is difficult and slippery, especially when it rains. We would have to ride a carabao to get there. Occasionally there would be mosquito larvae in the water, so we don’t drink that. It’s so much easier to get water here [at the bladder]. It’s a lot closer and cleaner,” she said.

UNICEF and partners continue to work on the ground to this day as children and families recover. You can help by donating at bit.ly/UNICEFEmergencies