IT WAS five days before Christmas. Everyone was worried about the impending “end of the world” hullaballoo and grim TV footages of increasing number of casualties of Typhoon Pablo and the devastation it caused in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley Province.
My colleague in the Worldwide Filipino Alliance (WFA), Ma. Fe “Peng” Jagna, of the Department of Budget and Management Office of Region XI called up early morning of December 20. She said the Navy ship loaded with relief goods for typhoon victims from Manila would dock in the port of Davao in the afternoon. We had been expecting the shipment from our WFA colleagues in Manila and abroad for a week and finally the wait was over. WFA-Pangdaigdigang Alyansa ng Pilipino (PAPI) president Romy Lagahit and I discussed how to bring the goods to the victims.
WFA-PAPI has no money so we had to rely on Romy’s Ex-Seminarian friends who have the facilities to do so. Finally the goods were delivered to the victims through Caritas and Social Action Center of the Diocese of Mati. Thanks to WFA donors, the Philippine Navy, Ex-Sem friends and support groups. Peng posted some pictures about this in the net. The WFA-PAPI event was over, but mine has just begun.
Trip to Montevista and Monkayo
The rain was pouring when I took a bus bound for Tagum City, some 50 kilometers from Davao, early morning of December 21. I would join a small team organized by Save the Children International (SCI) to visit the municipalities of Montevista and Monkayo, both in Compostela Valley Province. We were to survey the barangays to setup Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) in disaster-stricken areas as part of SCI’s global response to emergencies. Earlier, the Mindanao Action Group for Children’s Rights and Protection (MAGCRP), a local partner of SCI, submitted a Concept Note of a project for the establishment of CFS in these two municipalities.
The CFS project seeks to mitigate the effects of Typhoon Pablo, also internationally known as Typhoon Bopha among children-victims in the municipalities of Montevista and Monkayo. This is a stop-gap measure to protect children from further harm of being killed on the streets begging alms and relief goods from by-passers, caught in the queue of people in distribution centers, abused by adults looking for cheap labor, victimized by enterprising traffickers, or even harmed by debris left by the onslaught of Typhoon Pablo.
The devastation caused by the typhoon is appalling, to say the least. Reports from various sources paint a dismal picture of deaths and destruction of properties a week after the disaster. Residents literally walk amongst their fallen neighbours and destroyed houses in Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental. Based on the reports of the national disaster agency of December 12, death toll reached 714, more than 900 missing and 2,000 injured, and US$250 million worth of cash crops destroyed. Red Cross and World Food Programme have appealed for nearly $100 million for food and shelter for 5.4 million people affected by the typhoon. Across the island of Mindanao it is estimated that 400,000 people are still in emergency shelter and according to SCI around a quarter of them are children. There are rumours that about 3,500 are buried alive in mining sites of Mt. Diwalwal, Monkayo.
Local and foreign aid relief assistance has been distributed to most of the victims amidst reports of “unreached areas”. Local civil society organizations, media groups, business sector and nongovernmental organizations like WFA-PAPI have pooled their meagre resources for the victims. The government’s Disaster Risk Reduction Management Councils (DRRMC) and disaster-response mechanisms have been activated while International NGOs with local partners have mapped out their priorities for possible long term engagement in the areas most affected by the disaster. Among them is SCI whose partners in Mindanao, namely: MAGCRP, the Mindanao Emergency Response Network (MERN), and Caraga Emergency Response Group (CERG) have slowly been strengthened to reinforce its national response to the said disaster particularly on children and young people. MAGCRP which is a loose network of child-focused NGOs like Tambayan Center, Bantay Bata 163, Kabataan Consortium, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines-SOKSARGEN, Gitib and Katilingban Alang sa Kalambuan, has been involved in SCI’s child protection and child rights governance programs since 2006 takes the big challenge of helping rebuild the lives of children-victims in at least two municipalities of Compostela Valley. These two municipalities were chosen because of the degree of destruction, accessibility and level of assistance received from the government and private sectors.
CFS Volunteers Needed
The project generally aims that mechanisms for protecting children affected by Typhoon Pablo are put in place and capacities built to help prevent and respond to protection issues that typically increase in the first phase of an emergency. Deliverables or expected outputs of the project are: (1) setting up of at least 10 CFS in 10 barangays of the Municipalities of Montevista and Monkayo; (2) organizing of community child-protection committees, and (3) establishment of a workable referral system.
The purpose of CFS is to provide children with a protected environment in which they can participate in organized activities to play, socialize, learn, and express themselves as they rebuild their lives. It is a programmatic intervention to protect children from physical harm and psychological distress and to help them continue learning and developing both during and immediately after an emergency.
A total of 26 CFS Facilitators from MAGCRP members and local partners will be trained and deployed for the next five months. Among the barangays covered are Tapia, New Calape, Bankerohan North, Banagbanag and San Vicente in Montevista, and barangays Pasian, Naboc, Banlag, Inambatan and Hagimitan in Monkayo.
Building CFS may be just but a tiny drop of water in the bucket needed to quench the thirst of Typhoon Pablo victims for help. And we are happy to know that many drops are poured in by groups of people anywhere in the world to help them. More volunteers are needed for our children.