Friday, February 24, 2012

Road to recovery: children go back to school

Ten year old Joy hugs her grandfather at the evacuation centre.
© UNICEF Philippines/2012/Andy Brown
Ten-year-old Crizelle Joy lives with her grandfather, sister, two aunts and uncles, and nephew in a small one-room hut at an evacuation centre in Barangay (village) Mandulog in Iligan, the Philippines. The village is right next to the river and was one of the worst affected by the flash floods that followed Tropical Storm Washi in December.

“We were asleep in our house when the flood came,” Joy remembers. “The Barangay Captain woke us up. He was going from house to house in a bamboo boat. We had to leave immediately. My grandfather brought blankets for me and my sister but we left everything else behind. I was very scared. It was dark and the water was rising, and I could hear people crying out for help.”

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Relocation, relocation: families living in tent cities

Children use an umbrella to shelter from the sun at the tent city.
© UNICEF Philippines/2012/Andy Brown
I was in the Philippines recently to see how UNICEF was helping children in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Sendong, which hit the southern island of Mindanao last December. This was the worst storm in the area in modern history, dropping the equivalent of a month's rainfall in just one day and causing flash floods which left thousands of families homeless.

After my morning visit to Barangay Carmen evacuation centre, we returned to ‘Alpha Base’, the temporary UNICEF office in Cagayan de Oro (CdO). In fact it was a rented house in a residential compound, with a UNICEF banner hung from an upstairs balcony. Here I met Phil, a bubbly communications specialist from New Zealand who was my main contact for the trip, as well as Love, a friend of mine from the Manila office who had volunteered to work in CdO, and Rohannie, a child protection officer who I was due to accompany on her afternoon rounds.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Peer to peer: children recover from disaster

Kim helps six-year-old Robin with a math lesson, at an evacuation centre.
© UNICEF Philippines/2012/Andy Brown
Seventeen year old Kim sits with a group of young children in a child-friendly space at an evacuation centre in Cagayan de Oro, the Philippines, one of the towns worst hit by Tropical Storm Sendong last December. The centre is in a barangay (village) covered court. It’s crowded and humid, with the smell of sweat. Over 130 families live on top of each other with little comfort or privacy – sleeping, cooking and washing in the open.

But this morning an area has been cleared for children, marked out by a UNICEF tarpaulin mat. Here, Kim and other young volunteers are teaching math. “What does five plus two equal?” Kim asks in English, holding up a piece of paper with numbers drawn on it inside different shapes. “Seven!” the children shout happily in unison, before colouring in the right number with a yellow crayon.