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PHILIPPINES: Article as of 8 October 2009
UNICEF Executive Director visits flood-stricken Philippines
By Pamela Pagunsan
MANILA, Philippines, 8 October 2009 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman visited the Philippines yesterday to see the damage done by Tropical Storm Ondoy and subsequent massive flooding.
Residents of Santa Cruz village in low-lying Pasig City, metro Manila, experienced floodwaters three and a half feet deep. They were forced to evacuate to the nearby Liberato Damian Elementary School for safety.
During the first few days after the storm hit on 26 September, the school was home to 700 people, 300 of them children. Veneman met and spoke with children and mothers who remain in the school.
"My heart goes out to the families I met today, who now have no home but the corner of a school classroom," said Veneman. However, she added: "It was encouraging to see some children back in school, which brings a sense of normalcy to their lives after going through such a disaster."
One of the mothers Veneman met was Rossana Balboa, 40, who is staying in a classroom on the Liberato Damian school's third floor with members of her family and five other families.
"It's been very difficult. My husband is sick and because of the flood he doesn't have work, so we don't have money for medicines," she said, crying as she told her story.
It takes about 30 minutes to get from the evacuation site to Ms. Balboa's house, which is only accessible by boat or by wading in knee-high water. Her older children are guarding the house and their belongings, while the little ones – including the youngest, just 10 months old – stay at the school with her.
Veneman also spoke with sixth-grader Jaime de Venecia, Jr., who is living on the school's fourth floor with eight other families.
"I want to go back to school when the waters subside. I want to finish my studies and get a job, even as a janitor, just so I can help my father," he said.
UNICEF has provided the Pasig City authorities with family kits containing necessities such as water cans, blankets, mosquito nets and sleeping mats for the evacuees. In addition, it has distributed kits with essential medicines for use by health workers in the affected communities, as well as water and hygiene kits to ensure that families have safe water for drinking and cooking.
Educational materials – including a 100-book library to replace the materials that were lost in the flood – will also help to provide a sense of normalcy for children.
Meeting with the President
At Villamor air base in Manila, Veneman met with the President the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. They discussed the flood response and the emergency relief needs that UNICEF can meet, as well as ongoing efforts to promote the rights of all children in the country.
While in the Philippines, Veneman also launched the UN flash appeal in which UNICEF is requesting $12.7 million to assist flood victims in the areas of safe water; school supplies; essential medicines to prevent disease outbreaks; and the registration and protection of children who have become separated from, or have lost, their parents.
Other articles will follow later.
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