Alice Clements, Plan International’s communications manager in the Asia Regional Office, blogs about her visit to typhoon-affected parts of Mindanao island, southeast Philippines. About 6.2 million people were affected by Typhoon Bopha/Pablo in December and more than 800,000 remain displaced. Bopha/Pablo is the most destructive typhoon to ever hit the Philippines.
Sometimes things really don't go according to plan when you're responding to a natural disaster…
We were heading to a remote mountain village (Andap Town in New Bataan, Compostela Valley) to meet with a community that lost approximately 600 people out of a population of just 7,750 when Typhoon Bopha/Pablo created a flash flood that washed away the entire village last month. More than 500 homes disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving only a desert of rocks that looks, to all intents and purposes, like a normal river bed.
It'd been raining heavily here in Mindanao for the last few days and the road had morphed into a river in many places on the way. About 1km before our destination, the route was blocked by a raging river crossing at a right angle to the road. This “new river” was about 60m across. After some discussion, we got out and crossed the water using rocks and a bridge made from bamboo and a fallen log. We walked the rest of the way, pausing only when I managed to get completely stuck in the mud (up to my knees!) and had to be pulled out by some helpful locals – hopefully bringing some light relief for onlookers!
On arriving we happened upon a 24-year-old woman (eight months pregnant and the mother of a 4-year-old) who had lost her husband (and much of her extended family) in the typhoon. Her husband took her to higher ground but then turned back to get their baby supplies and savings for the impending baby. She hasn't seen him since.
This young woman is now living with six others in the only remaining room of a 14-room school that was washed away. It's no place to raise a child, let alone have a baby.
Plan's response to Typhoon Bopha/Pablo is currently facing a large funding shortfall, but, in this case, we've managed to figure out a way to support this expectant mother to give birth safely (she suffered from complications last time) in the nearest town. We'll also provide her with an infant kit and hygiene kit.
On the shelter front, we've provided plastic sheeting for the roof of the school room they're in, but it's a drop in the ocean compared to what she (and literally millions of others) need though. We must find ways to re-engage donors so that these people aren’t forgotten.
Plan Philippines is currently raising an additional US$2 million to support victims who have been affected by Typhoon Bopha in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley in Mindanao. Plan has already raised US$2.4 million for its emergency response efforts, focused on providing water kits, hygiene kits and shelter.