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Children of Philippines must not become a lost generation

Source: Plan International - Fri, 6 Dec 2013 12:28 PM
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Mae Anne's village in Eastern Samar was destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan. Credit: Plan International
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Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

AS the world marks the one-month anniversary of Typhoon Haiyan, children affected by this unprecedented disaster must not become a lost generation, says Plan International.

With 1.8 million children currently displaced in the Philippines, boys and girls remain vulnerable to violence, exploitation, abuse and neglect, while high levels of stress over a prolonged period can affect children’s development.

The child rights organisation, which recently increased the scale of its emergency response to US$75 million to meet the magnitude of the disaster, says protecting the rights of vulnerable children and getting them back into school must remain top priority.

According to Carin van der Hor, Country Director of Plan International in the Philippines:

While our immediate focus during Typhoon Haiyan has been on saving lives and providing for survivors’ most basic needs, we are also very worried that hundreds upon hundreds of schools have been damaged, destroyed, and are being used as evacuation centres.

“This will have grave consequences on children’s education, and it’s important that we provide for temporary education while communities recover, and that we get children back into their schools as quickly as possible.”

A number of child-friendly spaces – supported by Plan staff and volunteers – are being established, providing children with a place to play, learn, receive ‘emotional first aid’ and process what's happened to them in a safe environment.

The organisation has also been monitoring increases in child trafficking, while a concern emerging is the pattern of parents – and even older children – migrating out of the affected areas to look for work, leaving younger children behind as, for many, the storm took with it their livelihoods.

Coconut palm trees were a key source of income in Eastern Samar, where 12-year-old Mae Anne lives, but the crop has now been destroyed and it will take eight to ten years to replant and harvest new ones. This means families such as Mae Anne’s have been left with little or no income.

Mae Anne told Plan how Typhoon Haiyan has affected her village, her family and her education:

“Our village was beautiful, but it’s not anymore. All I want is for my neighbours who have lost their house to have a home again. I want to have the coconut trees back, because it’s the only thing we have and that we could farm, but the farm is now gone.

“We are not able to go to school now. I lost my books and other school materials. I miss school. I miss the teachers and their good lessons that they are giving to us. Instead, I do the chores and I walk around with my friends to see what’s going on. Right now, I feel that there is no future here, but if we can work hard, we can recover.”

Typhoon Haiyan, which hit the Philippines on November 8, 2013, is the largest storm ever to make landfall, leaving widespread devastation in its wake. Thousands of people have lost their lives, and it is estimated that up to 14.9 million people have been affected and 4.13 million have been displaced.

All of Plan Philippines’ programme units, home to about 40,000 sponsored children, have been affected across four provinces (Eastern Samar, Western Samar, Cebu and Leyte).

Plan placed vital supplies in communities before Haiyan hit, enabling thousands of shelter and water kits to be distributed immediately. It has since delivered additional aid to thousands and aims to reach more than 250,000 people including 105,000 children with immediate help including food. Plan will also be working with authorities on livelihoods, housing and rehabilitation of schools.

On average 20 typhoons hit the Philippines every year, with two or three of them devastating. Haiyan is the most powerful this year. Plan has been working in the Philippines since 1961. Projects benefit some 420 communities nationwide with more than 80,000 families.

To find out more about Plan’s Typhoon Haiyan appeal, visit www.planresponds.org

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