“Due to lack of livelihood, children are sometimes hungry, and they are deeply concerned for their parents’ well-being, sense of pride and job opportunities.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Children survivors of typhoon Yolanda are still restless and worried, a year after the devastating storm hit the country.
A report released by the international child’s rights organization, Save the Children said that there is still a lot to be done and the recovery of children still has a long way to go.
Minerva Cabiles, child rights governance director of Save the Children, said that children are still restless, worried about their education and uncertain if they will recover from the devastation.
“The main sources of livelihood of the people in Eastern Visayas such as fishing and agriculture were severely damaged by the typhoon and that is what is currently lacking. Children know that without livelihood, it will be difficult to move forward,” said Cabiles in press conference on Nov. 4, Tuesday.
Save the Children launched its one year report entitled, “Are we there yet? Children’s views on Haiyan recovery and the road ahead.” The report highlighted the children’s views on the response and recovery efforts and what needs to be done a year after the typhoon.
The group also opened the photo exhibit about the typhoon survivors, called “Yolanda: A Children’s Story.”
Save the Children interviewed 162 children; 90 girls and 72 boys with ages ranging from six to 17 years old, in Iloilo, Eastern Leyte and Western Leyte. Among their concerns were livelihood, shelter, access to health services and education.
“Children who were affected by Yolanda told Save the Children that despite being relatively happy with the aid they received in the first phase, that there is still much to do and full recovery will be impossible without jobs and food,” the report said.
It was on Nov. 8 last year when Yolanda hit Eastern Visayas affecting about 14 million people and killed more than 10,000 people.
Cabiles said children also find the government response inadequate as it focuses more on building infrastructures like classrooms and shelters. However, long term solutions such as job generation or restoration of their livelihood is still lacking.
“Up to now children are still facing a lot of issues. They said their parents still have no stable income; they do not have enough money to repair their houses. Some said their houses are still damaged and inadequate.”
Axel, nine, who was interviewed for the report, said: “Our house still needs repair. My father also needs work. Sometimes he has no job. Sometimes we do not have money or food.”
The report also said, “Children remain deeply concerned for the livelihood of their parents.
In December 2013, children’s main priority was for their parents to receive tools, training and jobs. One year from Haiyan, these recommendations remain relevant. Due to lack of livelihood, children are sometimes hungry, and they are deeply concerned for their parents’ well-being, sense of pride and job opportunities.”
In a Household Economic Approach study by the group, they noted that the poor have become poorer especially those whose livelihood depends on agriculture that was severely damaged by the typhoon.
In Western Leyte where people’s livelihood comes from coconut farming, families are barely subsisting. Peasant families try to cope by selling charcoal and “umbak or bakbak,” the dried outer leaf sheath of abaca mostly used for handicrafts. The report said that by selling these, farmers get crop advances by way of a credit line.
The absence of livelihood also weakens families’ purchasing power. To cope, families reduce food consumption and find work elsewhere. “Whereas previously, older children from the poorest families would migrate, now young people from poor families are also migrating for work,” the report read.
The report said that agricultural production is affected because farmers tend to rely on themselves and not hire farm hands to reduce production cost. The “very poor” and “poor families” also rely heavily on credit. The report said this “has had a highly detrimental effect on food security for the poorest families.”
“All groups are meeting survival thresholds post-Yolanda, but this will deteriorate for the very poor and poor by November due to unsustainable livelihood coping strategies,” the report said.
Worried over education
“My needs now, first and foremost is our house. And lastly is a scholarship to go to college so I can become successful. I do not want to grow up without going to school,” said Mary Joy, 12, who was among those interviewed by Save the Children.
One of the major concerns of the children is whether or not they will ever finish their education after the typhoon devastated their schools. Cabiles said some schools still need repairs while other schools have to be rebuilt. In some areas, classes are still not regular.
“Older children worry that typhoon Haiyan will impact on their access to secondary and tertiary education, which has now been derailed by their interrupted schooling and competing demands of their families as they try and recover. Older children also noted that they need greater support – beyond school supplies – to achieve their dreams,” the report read.
The report also said that adolescents observed that support to education are more focused on elementary school children.
Children also said that they appreciate Save the Children’s Child Friendly Spaces that help them to cope, to build resilience and to be more equipped for the future.
Children said in the report that they hoped that their views will be gathered and heard.
They recommended that those responsible for education (such as Department of Education officials and Save the Children) check all the classrooms in need of repair and ensure that they are fixed.
In a video shown by Save the Children during the press conference, children still cry when they recalled how strong the wind was, how they saw their loved ones and friends, their school and their houses being swept away by 17-foot waves.
In spite of their trauma, Cabiles said, children expressed that they want to be a part of the disaster-preparedness so that they too, will know what to do.
“The children have a lot of potential. They are very active during the consultations and most of them are saying that they want to be a part of what is going on,” Cabiles said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
“Children want to be systematically included as participants in disaster risk-reduction programs and wish that their views will be systematically collected in future rapid needs assessments, and evaluation,” the report read.
While the Save the Children has extended help to 800,000 children and adults in Eastern Visayas, the long term response needed by the survivors of the typhoon now falls on the local and national government. “We have high expectations on the government that these needs of the survivors will be addressed,” Cabiles told Bulatlat.com.
“The scale of Yolanda was unprecedented here in the Philippines. So many lives were destroyed. Recovery is a big job. Many children reported hunger, sickness and fear during the initial aftermath, but they also predicted that jobs and social services would be the key to ensuring their long term recovery,” said Michel Roojackers, Save the Children’s director in Yolanda Response.
“One year on, they are renewing that call. Save the children will continue working with families affected by this tragedy to help them achieve this,” said Roojackers.
Save the Children also campaigns for the passage of House Bill 5062, “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act which child rights organizations helped develop as a result of the on-going work with children in Yolanda-affected regions.