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At a glance: Philippines

Safe spaces for new mothers and their babies, as recovery from Typhoon Haiyan continues in the Philippines

© UNICEF Philippines/2013/Maitem
A parent/baby-friendly tent provides a place of rest, in Tacloban. “All mothers have lost key people … but have not had time to assimilate it,” says Nuria Díez Carrillo, a psychologist from UNICEF partner Action Against Hunger.

By Diana Valcarcel

UNICEF and partners are providing spaces in which mothers and babies affected by the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan can retreat to relax and begin the long path to recovery.

TACLOBAN, Philippines, 16 December 2013 – Cristina Yuzol cradles baby Kathlyn in her arms. Kathlyn was born on 19 November, shortly after Typhoon Haiyan hit.

“This place helps me to relax,” says Ms. Yuzol. Mother and baby sit in a tent in barangay (neighbourhood) 68. “Our house was destroyed by the typhoon. We have started to rebuild it, so we are living in a partially restructured house.

“It’s very stressful to be there,” she continues. “When I come here, Kathlyn and I are relaxed, and I can forget my problems.”

A place for mothers, a place for babies

Before, during, since Typhoon Haiyan, mothers like Ms. Yuzol have gone through the joy and challenges of childbirth. 

© UNICEF Philippines/2013/Maitem
“This place helps me to relax,” says Cristina Yuzol of the tent she visits in Tacloban. Her baby, Kathlyn, was born 11 days after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines, destroying their home.

Since the typhoon struck, many of these mothers have been sheltering in evacuation centres. Some have been widowed by the storm. They birth their babies amid loss, some newly impoverished. Some are first-time mothers, some not.

In partnership with Action Against Hunger (ACH), UNICEF has set up parent/baby-friendly tents like the one in which Ms. Yuzol and Kathlyn rest. There are four tents in Tacloban and one in Dulga municipality.

These spaces give mothers and babies a clean, safe and calm place to recuperate from the shock of the storm, for mothers to breastfeed and for babies to relax and play away from the crowded evacuation centres or shelters in which they live.

There are activities for mothers and babies to make them feel better. Local day workers teach mothers how to do relaxation exercises with their babies. Therapy groups help mothers share their feelings.

While mothers breastfeed peacefully, children under 2 years old can play with toys from the early childhood development box.

A step toward recovery

For mothers to process their feelings is an important step toward recovery.

© UNICEF Philippines/2013/Maitem
(Background, left) one of the four tents now open in Tacloban. The tents give women a space to recuperate and to spend time with their babies away from the crowded evacuation centres or shelters in which they now live.

“Mothers haven’t had time after the typhoon to express their feelings,” explains ACH psychologist Nuria Díez Carrillo. “They have been too busy trying to find food and water for their children, to protect them. They are exhausted, scared and under stress, and this has affected their attachment with their children.”

“All mothers have lost key people in their lives, but have not had time to assimilate it,” continues Ms. Díez Carillo. “In the tents is the first time they have an opportunity to stop, so they cry – which is good for them.

“It’s good that they express their feelings and that they share them with other mothers in the same situation,” she adds. “They are building a sense of community, helping one another.”

Ms. Yuzol says that, when the typhoon came, she protected herself and her unborn baby by climbing to a taller house. Kathlyn was born in the public hospital. “I was very happy to have my baby,” she says. Her husband’s parents passed away in the typhoon.

ACH is an international organization that has been working in the Philippines for more than ten years. It is one of UNICEF’s principal partners on a number of response efforts in Tacloban and across the region.



UNICEF Photography: Typhoon Haiyan

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