Flood survivor Philip, 15 and youth
facilitator Habib, 24, from Kids for Peace, which offered children psychosocial support following Tropical Storm Washi and helped families to prepare for future disasters. ©UNICEF UK/Philippines/2012/Jeoffrey Maitem
In April I
visited the Philippines
to see how UNICEF is helping children recover from disasters and prepare for
future ones. We visited Cagayan de Oro, which was badly hit by Tropical Storm
Washi nearly a year ago on 16 December 2011. The area had not experienced such
a devastating tropical storm before, which meant that people, especially poorer
families, were unprepared.
I heard that Typhoon Bopha was approaching the same area of the Philippines. I was obviously
concerned to hear that families there, including those I met, would be facing a
typhoon, after the traumatic events of last December.
weather in the Philippines
is a reminder as to why the discussions currently being held in Doha are so important. World
governments are discussing how to tackle climate change, which is already
hitting children first and worst.
As part of
our Speak Up for Children campaign, we have been calling for progress on the Green
Climate Fund. The Green Climate Fund could
ensure millions of children have enough food and clean water and are protected
from disasters, but only if it gets the funding it desperately needs. For example
it could provide early warning systems and cyclone-proof schools.
importance of UNICEF's work in preparing children for future disasters was
brought home to me when I met Philip, 15, from Cagayan de Oro. He attended psychosocial sessions which used play, music and drama
to help children deal with their experiences of Washi, as well as preparing
them for future disasters.
He told me,
"Our house was totally washed out. We were very
shocked." But he had learnt about preparing for disasters, such as "Being ready
all the time and keeping updated with the news, especially the TV at home. I
learnt how to save people and what things we should bring in times of disasters."
increasing impact of climate-related disasters is yet another reason why
children mustn't be forgotten by the negotiators at COP 18.
10 December 2012
The path of the typhoon was set to hit the same two
cities, Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City, which were severely affected by Tropical Storm Washi.
Local government and community organisations organised early evacuations of
families in the most vulnerable areas to evacuation centres. The strong typhoon
did pass directly over the area, and the cities report zero casualties. Local
people were more prepared to respond to a disaster which will save lives in the
future. Unfortunately on the east coast of Mindanao, people were less prepared and less aware and
hundreds of people have died. Find out more and how UNICEF is responding.
Louisa Leadlay is Campaigns
Officer in the Public Affairs team at UNICEF UK