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The lives we lost and the dreams we helped rebuild

A day after Christmas 2004, waves as high as 25 feet crashed upon sea-lying communities in South Asia. A few weeks before that, two super typhoons hit and ravaged communities in the Philippine province of Quezon. Entire communities have been displaced, children orphaned or separated from their families, homes and sources of livelihoods ruined. Everyone has lost someone - a mother, a father, a husband or wife, a son or daughter, a friend. Loss is a small word to contain all that it means.

In South Asia, 5 million people are estimated to have been affected by the tsunami. Of the 5 million, 1.5 million are children. Typhoons Violeta, Winnie and Yoyong affected the lives of 345,000 children in the Philippines.

Thankfully, as mighty as the waters that raged through these communties, equally mighty has been the outpouring of support from people like you, our donors in the Philippines.

Our phones have been ringing off the hook from people who want to know how they can help. Donations through our website have also poured in. There have been donations of large amounts and also of small but heartfelt sums. A P1 million cheque was delivered to our office, the donor not even staying long enough for a receipt. Children have come with their parents in tow to personally hand in money saved over the holidays. Such gallant acts warm our hearts each day. If only we could put this warmth in a can and send it over to those children and their families affected by the disasters, to comfort them in their loss.

The task of rebuilding homes, communities and lives is daunting. It will take much time. And much patience. And the risk is great that after the initial rush to help, people will forget and think that the disaster is over, that everything is back to normal. The challenge is for us not to forget but to instead commit to seeing these people through, for as long as it would take for them to get back on their feet. And so we appeal to you not to lose that burden for those who have suffered much from these disasters.

Aside from the risk of losing the zeal in helping these calamity-stricken areas, there is also that risk of losing sight of the issues that we face locally. These are the issues that UNICEF will focus on this year, and which we hope you will also take on as we do:

Too many women are dying while they give birth. These deaths can be prevented. We will help equip clinics with the proper tools to make childbirths safe.

Too many children remain malnourished. We will make a noise to promote exclusive breastfeeding. We will continue our nationwide campaign on complete immunization against preventable diseases and consumption of iodised salt.

98% of brain development occurs in the early years. But very few children enjoy early learning and stimulation. We will replicate innovative community and home-based "little schools" to ensure that children get ready for formal schooling and lifelong learning.

We want to address the growing concern of HIV/AIDS, early marriages and pregnancy among our teenagers. We will pursue effective means to educate and increase awareness on the dangers associated with risky sexual behavior.

We are working hard to reduce the number of children who are engaged in hazardous work. We are also asking our senators to pass a law that will keep children out of adult jails.

The task is enormous, but even with small but measured, deliberate and purposeful steps, together we will deliver on our obligations to the children of this country.

You may pledge an amount, no matter how small, that will assure a continuous flow of assistance to programmes that will help return things to normalcy in typhoon and tsunami-stricken communities as well as assure funding for equally urgent local issues facing children in the Philippines.

Call our hotline 758-1000, Monday thru Friday, 8 am-5 pm
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