A Year Later, Typhoon-Stricken Philippines Communities Are Rallying

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By Martin Nanawa, ChildFund Philippines, and Christine Ennulat, ChildFund Staff Writer



Corrugated steel roofing glimmers in the sun, while banners announcing the reopening of businesses are attached all over Tacloban City in the central Philippines. Children go to and from school, carrying schoolbags donated by aid agencies.

Kenna, too, is back in school, attending 10th grade.

It’s a far cry from Nov. 8, 2013, when Super Typhoon Haiyan roared across the central Philippines, claiming 6,300 lives and injuring more than 28,000 people. Half a million homes were destroyed; another half a million were damaged. Kenna was flying through fields, running to escape the dangerous storm.

Tacloban after recovery

Tacloban was devastated by Super Typhoon Haiyan on Nov. 8, 2013, and ChildFund began actively responding a day before landfall. Now, almost a year since, ChildFund continues to support livelihood recovery and other efforts throughout the Visayas.

Four days later, ChildFund was among the first organizations on the ground, ready to help, especially with children’s particular needs.

In the first weeks after the storm, we delivered 32,575 food packs (each fed five people for five days) and 9,771 non-food item kits (hygiene and cleaning supplies, blankets, cooking utensils and other important items). We also set up 15 Child-Centered Spaces (CCS), ChildFund’s signature intervention after emergencies.

Kenna, who’s now in the 10th grade, went to a CCS, where she learned to process her fears from the traumatic storm. Whether they are set up within evacuation centers, schools or freestanding tents, CCSs are safe places where children and youth can play, socialize and learn. There, they can also access counseling to help them recover from the trauma, referrals to specialist services, and protection — especially important as children are most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation after disasters.

Many of the tents were set up on the grounds of destroyed schools, so they also have served as classrooms while schools were reconstructed, and CCS activities have continued as schools reopened, with the support of the country’s Department of Education and schools’ administrators.

In addition to CCSs, ChildFund is working to strengthen local prevention of and response to child neglect, abuse or exploitation, by supporting community-based child protection committees through training and coaching to ensure timely response to violations and appropriate referrals for services. In the affected communities, circumstances remain difficult and strained, and children can easily be exploited or placed in danger because their parents are distracted, traumatized and exhausted.

Since the spring, we have also supported the government’s and other agencies’ efforts to rebuild schools and community-run early childhood development centers, and we are building temporary learning spaces for schools that required larger rehabilitation. Children in primary and secondary schools received back-to-school kits. We also have been training teachers, day care workers and others on psychosocial support for children.

Because malnutrition is an ongoing risk for young children since Haiyan, we have reached 40,000 mothers and young children through a variety of resources and events — to educate and support mothers about nutrition as well as health, to provide breastfeeding support and to monitor malnutrition cases.

Livelihoods are another area of focus: We ensure parents have the resources to rebuild their businesses in agriculture or fishing, and we’re supporting youth and adults to improve their skills in areas of the greatest employment needs, such as masonry, carpentry and more.


This work has been possible thanks to support from individuals and ChildFund Alliance member organizations, along with funds from UNICEF, Mercy Corps, Swedish and Australian philanthropic organizations and the governments of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Korea.

In the meantime, Kenna has volunteered to extend the support she received to children her age and younger. She trained with ChildFund, learning the reasons and the science behind the games, crafts and other creative activities that help children move past trauma. Kenna and her peers also learned about child protection, particularly in the context of a post-emergency community.

Kenna notes that she’s gained a higher profile in her community because of her volunteer work. “Each day of the weekend, I get about 60 to 100 children attending CCS,” she says. “Such numbers can get unruly sometimes, especially among the younger kids, but you just need lots of patience.”

Kenna still remembers running through the fields when the storm was striking last year, leading others toward safety. In a way, she’s still doing that, and her efforts are yielding results.

“How much longer will I volunteer with ChildFund?” Kenna muses. “As long as I’m still needed.”

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