By Kate Bundra Roux
Yesterday I was visiting Mary Chris Limbwasan and her 18-month-old daughter, Nicole, in an evacuation centre managed by the Philippine Red Cross. Next to her was a pregnant woman waiting to deliver her second child any day.
As a young mother, I couldn’t help but think: “What if that was me?”
Just nine months ago, I delivered my son in a hospital in Switzerland. I had the security of a safe home environment for my family, all the diapers we needed and a warm bed for us both.
Right before my delivery, like most women, I was busy ‘nesting’ and getting everything prepared to make sure his arrival at home was just perfect.
Facing these two mothers, it struck me deeply that they have nothing left after Typhoon Bopha destroyed their homes in early December. This was the deadliest storm to hit the Philippines in the past year, and it ripped communities apart, killing over 1,000 people and affecting more than 6 million.
Shelter remains one of the most critical needs, with over 120,000 homes damaged and nearly 90,000 destroyed. There are approximately 13,000 people like Mary Chris, who are still residing in evacuation centres waiting for assistance.
“I wrapped my daughter in a blanket. It was all I could do to keep her safe,” Mary Chris says while breastfeeding. “We were almost swept away by the floods, but someone pulled us to safety.”
Speaking with them, I realise the resilience we – and our children – have. It’s strong.
And yet, I still can’t imagine having to cope with these experiences as a mom. Despite their strength and their resilience, these women still clearly need support.
Ami Jane is a Red Cross nurse working, and living, with other members of her community in an evacuation centre that has been home for a month. “Right now, many of these people are still facing psychological trauma”, she says.
Looking around, there are blankets strung together between small living spaces, offering at least a slither of privacy from the dozens of other families in the centre. It is home, of a sort, but it’s not a long-term option.
Ami Jane says: “Having a home for these mothers, children and families, is really needed – not only for them to feel safe again, but so they can begin to rebuild their lives.”
For the moment, the evacuation centre offers many families place of safety for the short-term. But more permanent solutions – permanent homes – are needed.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has launched an emergency appeal of 16.2 million Swiss francs which will support Philippine Red Cross in rebuilding typhoon-resilient shelters for 4,000 families. In addition, 15,000 families will be assisted with materials to help them rebuild their damaged home.