UNICEF staff on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19
"Fighting COVID-19 is a personal battle for me."
I have been working in the development and humanitarian sector for 21 years. Currently, I work as a health and nutrition officer in UNICEF Philippines. I am one of the six essential staff in the UNICEF Mindanao Field office in Cotabato City who continue our work despite the pandemic.
As the number of cases grow day by day, my colleagues and I wear our masks, frequently wash our hands and remind each other of the safety protocols to prevent ourselves from being infected.
Being a mother and a health advocate, I keep track of the reports coming in the Philippines and in the Bangsamoro region. We help the national and the Bangsamoro Government in the COVID-19 response by providing essential supplies, training and technical expertise. The pandemic has put unprecedented strain on families, particularly frontline workers as part of essential health services.
As I do my work, I worry about my family in Zamboanga. Fighting COVID-19 is a personal battle for me.
As a mother of three young children and a daughter to elderly parents, I can’t help but be concerned about my family, especially as one of my close relatives contracted COVID-19.
To keep in touch with my husband and children, I videocall them every night, play online games with them and play with the filters available in apps. I always remind them to wash their hands with soap and water, eat properly and exercise. They have a daily schedule with their father, and they send me videos of their workouts. I send them videos of my daily activities as well.
I also communicate with my parents and siblings in our group chat and we send text messages, and voice mails for updates. My parents remind me to take care of myself and pray. I also remind them to take their medicines, and not to go out. I send them updates about COVID-19 situation almost every day. To lighten the mood, we also send each other puzzles, videos, memes, jokes, photos, and voice recordings.
While I am thankful that my family and I have access to technology, I am aware that this is not the same for many families in BARMM.
I met many frontline workers working in hard-to-reach communities in Lanao unreachable by technology. A health worker in Maguing, Sohra Cao, never stopped working despite the pandemic. "Each day with Covid-19 brings some new struggles for Meranao families especially those living in the farthest barangay. We resumed health services when we received the disinfecting kits from UNICEF," she said. They made sure to follow health regulations and that their staff are well trained on the new protocol.
Working in UNICEF gives me the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives by spreading correct information and building the capacity of our government partners.
After many months of quarantine lockdowns across the Philippines, I learn to take it one day at a time and to be thankful for each day. We have made it this far. We all need to help each other and do what needs to be done to stop the spread of the virus.