BANGKOK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – One week after a massive earthquake hit the central Philippines, up to 70 percent of those displaced are living in the open for fear of aftershocks and are in urgent need of shelter, water and sanitation, aid agencies told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The 7.2 magnitude quake on Oct. 15 killed 190 people, displaced 380,000 and affected over 3 million in the tourist destinations of Bohol island and the nearby Cebu islands. Bohol, 630 km (390 miles) south of the capital, Manila, bore the brunt of the quake’s force.
As of Monday morning, 2,318 aftershocks have been recorded, the national disaster agency said, and aid agencies expressed concern over trauma caused by the aftershocks and over living conditions both inside and outside evacuation centres.
“Some (of the displaced) are in evacuation centres, but many are sleeping in tarpaulin shelters on plots of land next to their houses and some are in open farmland,” said Justin Morgan, country director for Oxfam in the Philippines.
Many people are defecating in the open as sanitation is inadequate and the main water supply is still broken, though the government is now providing bottled water to those affected, he said.
“Any time that people are living in such situations where they don't have normal access to water and they don't have easy access to sanitation facilities, the risk of waterborne diseases increases,” said Morgan, who was in the affected areas until Sunday evening.
Morgan said it was important to have a proper assessment of the water infrastructure and not to assume the water supply would resume when electricity is restored.
SHELTER URGENTLY NEEDED
The quake caused landslides and widespread damage to infrastructure, and damaged bridges have hampered the delivery of aid to some far-flung districts.
“The biggest need right now is emergency shelter,” according to Necephor Mghendi of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), who said 10,000 homes had collapsed and a further 44,000 had been damaged.
“These are not normal wooden houses but concrete houses, homes of people who have built them over the years, putting in a lot of effort,” he said in a phone interview from Bohol.
“Some of the partially damaged homes will have to be torn down because they’re not structurally sound any more,” he added.
Mardy Halcon, communication officer for Plan International in the Philippines, said the organisation was concerned about children roaming the affected area. “They have nothing else to do and schools are still suspended as they have also been damaged. For Plan, that's a protection issue that we're very concerned about,” she said.
For the 100,000 people inside evacuation shelters, the situation is scarcely better. There is no security patrol at night and the washing facilities lack privacy, the United Nations’ latest report says.
Last month, a young girl was raped in an overcrowded evacuation centre in Zamboanga in the southern Philippines. Some 120,000 people displaced by fighting between government troops and a breakaway faction of the Muslim rebels had taken refuge there.
"We have not heard any stories (of gender-based violence) yet but it's a risk because children are living in the open and families don't have any privacy," Halcon said. “In one evacuation centre I went to, 11 families are in one tent, both children and adults.”
AID WORKERS ALSO AFFECTED
The Philippines is currently grappling with numerous disasters. In addition to the emergency in Zamboanga and the earthquake in Bohol, at least four typhoons have caused widespread flooding and damage since August.
Aid agencies are also still working to help people recover from Typhoon Bopha, which struck the southern Philippines last December.
“In Bohol the people from the (Philippines Red Cross) are affected too. So they've sent volunteers from other parts of the Philippines who are not affected to make sure the delivery of humanitarian assistance will not stall,” said the IFRC’s Mghendi, who added that the IFRC would launch an emergency appeal in the coming days.
“We are very busy and we're not at the end of the typhoon season yet,” he said.