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Communities must be supported to ‘build back better’ if future generations are to weather the destructive storms of the Philippines, says child rights organisation Plan International.
Just three months ago, Typhoon Haiyan - the strongest storm ever to make landfall - destroyed communities, tearing homes apart and reducing schools to rubble.
While classes have resumed for the most part (although many now operate a reduced timetable) and aid is reaching those in need, communities are still struggling to recover.
Nigel Chapman, Plan International CEO, said: “Agencies like Plan responded very quickly to get basics like water, food and shelter to those worse hit. But three months on, there is still so much to do to help communities get back on their feet.
“They may no longer be in the spotlight, but life for millions of children in the Philippines right now is still extremely tough and risky. The fall-out of a major disaster like Haiyan can affect an entire generation if they are not given enough support to rebuild their lives, get back to school, to work and to some semblance of normality.”
Just before Christmas, children were given the opportunity to voice their thoughts on their own priorities and needs, as well as those of their families and communities, as part of a joint report by leading children’s organisations including Plan. The report revealed that children were most keen to see their homes rebuilt, they wanted to get back to school and were keen for electricity to be restored. The report also showed how children had been involved in the evacuation and preparedness processes before Typhoon Haiyan made landfall, giving them an opportunity to voice their interest in wanting to learn more about how they could prepare for future disasters.
The report, however, also highlighted how many children had been forced to take on work and new roles within their home and community, post Typhoon Haiyan, to help their families.
Marinel, 16, from Eastern Samar, lost her home, her books and her pens in the typhoon. She also lost many of her schoolmates, as they decided to forgo their education in favour of work.
“There are students who are no longer studying. They just go to sea (to fish) with their fathers. It makes me sad, because they don’t have a future. It’s hard to live when you don’t have knowledge. Education is very powerful and I cherish every moment when I am in school. I want to know what my teacher is teaching. My certificates and medals were my hidden wealth.”
If the Philippines is to build back better, it is essential that the needs of the young, including education and employment opportunities are factored into the recovery, says Plan.
Carin van der Hor, Country Director of Plan International in the Philippines, said: “Not only have people lost their houses, but they’ve lost their livelihoods too, plus a lot of the infrastructure has been destroyed. The recovery work will be much more extensive than what we’ve seen in previous disasters in the Philippines.
“In the short term, we must prevent outbreaks of disease, so water and sanitation and health interventions are very important. But it’s equally important to ensure that children go back to school and that psychosocial support is provided for those affected.
“In the longer term, we must ensure communities are rebuilt to a better standard. We also have to help communities rebuild their livelihoods. This will require a change in mindset, because many of the farmers were dependent on coconut farming and almost all of the coconut farms were destroyed in the typhoon. Coconut trees take at least five to eight years to begin growing fruit so replanting the coconut trees is a long-term option but not a short-term solution.”