The Persistent Threat of Typhoons in Southeast Asia

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Posted on 9/25/2013
Thousands of homes were destroyed by Typhoon Washi in the Philippines, in December 2011.
Thousands of homes were destroyed by Typhoon Washi in the Philippines, in December 2011.

Many countries in Southeast Asia are vulnerable to typhoons, particularly the Philippines. This group of more than 7,100 islands has been hit by many powerful typhoons in the past, including Typhoon Washi in December 2011 and Super Typhoon Bopha, a category-5 storm, in December 2012. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has designated September as National Preparedness Month, and as the month draws to a close, please consider donating to ChildFund's Emergency Action Fund, a program that enables us to provide emergency aid to communities affected by typhoons and other natural disasters.

Swept Away

Typhoon Washi, which was known locally as Sendong, devastated the island of Mindanao on Dec. 16, 2011. Around 52,000 homes were damaged or destroyed by the heavy flooding that followed in the wake of Washi, and many families of children enrolled in our child sponsorship program were affected. More than 1,200 people lost their lives in this powerful storm, and many more succumbed to leptospirosis, a serious bacterial infection, in the weeks following the typhoon.

ChildFund's Emergency Action Fund allows us to provide urgent assistance to families affected by typhoons like Washi. In addition to getting emergency supplies such as food, clothing and potable water to communities most affected by these disasters, this fund also enables us to create child-centered spaces (CCS), where children receive vital psychosocial support in the aftermath of natural disasters. The psychological scars that come from seeing their homes swept away by floodwaters can run deep, which is why this type of assistance is so crucial in the days and weeks following a typhoon.

"We feel we've returned the smiles and laughs they lost, along with their homes and even loved ones, in the flood," says Christine, a young girl who volunteered to help with support initiatives through our local partner in the Philippines after Washi hit. "Some of them were in terror, when we first started CCS. Their faces glow with sincere happiness and laughter now."

Preparing for the Worst

As a country that is particularly vulnerable to typhoons, the Philippines faces a series of special challenges, among which is implementing emergency preparedness plans. ChildFund works closely with the Filipino government and other aid organizations in the country to create emergency response plans to minimize loss of life and provide families and children in need with ongoing support after these devastating incidents.

ChildFund has been working in Malita, a town on the eastern seaboard of Mindanao, for almost 30 years. Our local partner organization in the area is staffed almost exclusively by former sponsored children who grew up in the area. With this high level of experience in the region, we are able to respond quickly and effectively in times of crisis. Thanks to the hard work of our local partners, officials say that Malita's disaster response plan is strong, which is vital when faced with the potential devastation and loss of life that typhoons like Bopha can bring. Fortunately, Bopha did not impact the communities where our sponsored children live as strongly as other regions, but in any case, they were prepared.

"Residents of coastal communities evacuated early enough, and there was sufficient pre-positioning of food packs and medicines," said Thelma Oros, a disaster risk reduction management officer in Malita, shortly after Typhoon Bopha made landfall in December 2012.

Without the support of our donors, ChildFund could not help as many children and their families in times of crisis. To support us in our efforts to save lives, please consider making a donation to our Emergency Action Fund this National Preparedness Month. Your generosity will make a world of difference to communities hit hard by natural disasters.