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The struggle to recover six months on from the Bohol earthquake

International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) - Switzerland - Mon, 14 Apr 2014 12:28 GMT
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A tent city has emerged in Inabanga, Bohol, but as the region approaches the hottest time of the year, better shelter becomes a priority. Alanah Torralba/IFRC
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Exposed to the scorching heat of the sun, Leoncia feeds her children. For the past six months the family has been staying in a small tent made from pieces of tarpaulins and materials salvaged from her old house which was flattened on the morning of 15 October 2013, when a 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastated much of Bohol Island in the central Visayas region of the Philippines.  

The months of April and May are the hottest time of the year in Philippines and Leoncia’s family has no choice but to endure the discomfort of their makeshift shelter. Prior to the earthquake, the 35 year old mother of four, could make ends meet. “We were doing fine. I used to plant vegetables and other crops. With my husband’s income we made enough money for our daily needs,” she says. Now, suffering from chronic back pain after a section of wall from her house collapsed on her during the earthquake, she can no longer do physical work and is struggling to make ends meet.

Although humanitarian efforts in Bohol have largely been overshadowed by the response to Typhoon Haiyan which struck neighbouring areas of Visayas a few weeks after the earthquake, Leoncia has received some help. Her family was amongst 12,000 others who received relief items from the Philippine Red Cross – including blankets, hygiene kits, jerry cans, mosquito nets, sleeping mats and tarpaulins. She will also receive help and materials to rebuild her home.

The Philippine Red Cross has been the lead organisation in relief and recovery efforts in Bohol. As well as providing relief items, clean water has been provided to 60,000 households. The Government of Japan, one of the donors in theemergency appeal launched by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), funded  tents and tarpaulins for 10,500 families.

Some 74,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the earthquake. Schools were also affected. In many areas, teachers and hundreds of students squeeze into small tents which are being used as temporary classrooms.

“The tents are uncomfortable, especially at this time of the year,”  says Dolores Talatayon, a teacher in Lawis Elementary School in Loon municipality. “The students struggle to pay attention during lessons.” The Philippine Red Cross is working in 10 schools in Bohol, supporting the rehabilitation of facilities such as latrines, hand washing facilities and water supply.

To date, barely 40 per cent of the IFRC’s emergency 7.7 million Swiss franc (USD 8.8 million, 6.3 million Euros)  appeal has been met. “This makes the task of meeting the long term recovery of survivors, particularly in the area of shelter support, extremely challenging,” says Gwendolyn Pang, Secretary General of Philippine Red Cross.

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