Double the Disaster Effects to Children: Child rights advocates call for better government support to Yolanda victims
“We are infuriated with the government’s ineptitude to provide the needs of victims of disasters, especially children”, said Kharlo Felipe Manano, Secretary General of the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns, an alliance of twenty-four (24) child-focused organizations in the Philippines.
“It’s been almost four (4) months since super typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) ravaged several provinces in the Visayas, but the people remain helpless due to lack of government support”, Manano added.
During the second series of the group’s UlatBulilit forum entitled “Double the Disaster: Typhoon Yolanda Aftermath to Children and their Families”, the effects of Typhoon Yolanda on children were discussed. The forum highlighted the psychosocial and socio-economic effects of Typhoon Yolanda on children and also dealt on the matter of Aquino’s inept and inappropriate response and programs on relief and rehabilitation.
“In the areas in Eastern Visayas where we conducted psychosocial intervention, it was evident that the disaster has affected children immensely as certain manifestations of trauma and disconcertion were present”, said Jacquiline Ruiz, psychologist and Executive Director of Children’s Rehabilitation Center. “Furthermore, the children we’ve worked with shared six major thoughts: (1) fear during and after the storm surge; (2) they were not informed that such big typhoon will occur; (3) massive destruction of their properties, sources of livelihood schools, etc.; (4) the government ought to immediately respond on their condition regarding relief, etc.; (5) some of their friends are missing; and (6) what will happen to them and their families”, Ruiz added.
“Children make up almost half of the total number affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Their families’ income sources were devastated and important social services that form the cornerstone of their wellbeing were gravely affected, putting them at risk of various developmental challenges and thus, putting them in a very distressed state”, said Manano.
Manano discussed five (5) main issues that provided a closer look on the socio-economic state of Yolanda-affected children.
On health, increase in cases of dengue, measles and other diseases have been reported. Maternal and child health is also at risk.
On education, more than a million children were left without access to education. Thousands of classrooms were destroyed, makeshift ones are used and other schools are still used as evacuation centers.
The economic activities and livelihood of communities and families affected by the typhoon are disrupted and almost at standstill. “This greatly affects children as the absence of any source of income would render children and their families to hunger and increase children’s vulnerability to violence and sexual exploitation”, opined Manano.
“Children’s psycho-emotional vulnerability also makes them easy targets for sex traffickers. Various child rights groups and organizations have already raised the alarm over the increasing vulnerabilities of children and women survivors to the perils of human trafficking, specifically for sexual purposes”, added Manano.
A renowned architect criticized the “substandard” and “indecently small” government housing provisions. “Allegations of corruption plague the government bunkhouses in disaster-stricken areas, adding more salt to injury”, opined Manano.
Compounding the disastrous effects of typhoon Yolanda is the “No build zones” policy of the government which displaced thousands of fisherfolks and famers, to give way to exploitative operations of big businesses. “More alarmingly, the government is railroading charter change in order to remove constitutional safeguards to Filipino industry and agriculture so that foreign companies may be able to fully exploit our resources”, said Gabriela Women’s Partylist Representative Emmi De Jesus.
“The Aquino government used this disaster to open the floodgates to foreign business interests at the expense of the people’s welfare, especially of women and children who are most vulnerable in these trying times”, added De Jesus.
At the end of the forum, child right advocates signed a Unity Statement to express solidarity and commitment to the victims of Yolanda, especially the children. They also marked their handprints in a canvass to manifest their solidarity.
“We need to unify our strengths in continuously providing support and solidarity to Yolanda-affected children and their families. We must forward and fight for the legitimate demands of the survivors and to press the government in taking appropriate actions to address the situation through lobbying, campaigns and protest actions. The International Women’s Day commemoration on March 8 to be led by GABRIELA is one venue where we can forward our demands and hold the Aquino government liable for its criminal neglect to Yolanda victims and survivors”, ended Manano.
Reference: KHARLO FELIPE C. MANANO, Secretary General, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns