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Baltimore, January 24, 2012 – On the evening of December 16, Solidad Maestre encountered the most unforgettable typhoon of her life. The water was already knee-high when she began to pack her things, and by the time Solidad and her children vacated their home, the floodwaters had risen to chest level, forcing them to abandon their possessions.
“We were trapped on the road, because of the floodwater coming from different directions. I was praying hard to ask God for help,” she recalled. Solidad begged for help from a resident whose house has a second floor. “We stayed there with 75 other people, but when the water level reached the second floor of the house we started to climb up the rooftop, using a blanket as a rope.”
Solidad and her children survived the night, but their property did not. She was devastated to see their house completely washed away by the flood. “I was [already] planning to repair the roof, but now it is gone,” she said. She is staying in a local evacuation center with her children, and relying on the food rations and water assistance from relief agencies like Lutheran World Relief.
The storm that ripped through the Philippines island of Mindanao on December 16 affected more than a million people, mostly in areas where LWR was already working on several development projects. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has reported 1,257 deaths, and more than 150 people remain unaccounted for four weeks after the disaster.
Thanks to a generous $850,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, LWR is reaching out to flood-affected communities with emergency cash assistance to buy food, medicine and other necessities, as well distributing other critically needed items to flood-affected families. The grant will also support the provision of clean water, and longer-term work to rehabilitate livelihoods.
“We are so grateful to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for supporting this important work,” said Joanne Fairley, LWR’s Regional Director for Asia and the Middle East. “The situation in Mindanao may have faded from the headlines, but the needs are very real and will remain so for a long time to come.”
According to the National Disaster Management Council, there are still 26,473 people living in 56 evacuation centers as of January 17, 2011.
LWR has also provided Quilts, Personal Care Kits, Baby Care Kits and School Kits in the most-affected areas.
“These items help provide comfort and meet basic needs for people who have lost everything,” Fairley added.
Solidad Maestre was one of those recipients.
“Thank you so much for the help, especially for the quilts,” she said. “I can use this as a sleeping mat, because right now we are sleeping on a carton.”
WHO IS LWR? Lutheran World Relief, an international nonprofit organization, works to end poverty and injustice by empowering some of the world's most impoverished communities to help themselves. With partners in 35 countries, LWR seeks to promote sustainable development with justice and dignity by helping communities bring about change for healthy, safe and secure lives; engage in Fair Trade; promote peace and reconciliation; and respond to emergencies. LWR is headquartered in Baltimore, Md. and has worked in international development and relief since 1945. For more information, please visit lwr.org.
Lutheran World Relief is a ministry of U.S. Lutherans, serving communities living in poverty overseas.