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Children at risk in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan

“Children are on the streets searching for food and water. They are traumatised by what’s happened, they’re hungry, they’re thirsty. Often their parents are out trying to get food themselves, trying to get water and so children are left on their own. No one’s looking after them, and they’re traumatised.”

This is the situation in Ormoc, one of the worst-hit areas in the Philippines, where ChildFund is currently working to assist children affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Julien Anseau, ChildFund’s Asia Region Communications Manager, is with our emergency team on the ground, providing food, water and emergency supplies to families in need. Julien is sending regular updates and confirmed today that ChildFund has established child-centred spaces in Ormoc and Roxas City, ensuring a safe space for children to gather, play and receive trauma support.

“Organisations like ChildFund are responsible obviously to provide humanitarian relief – food, water, hygiene kits – but also providing psychosocial support for children,” he says. “We`re setting up child-centred spaces, which are safe spaces for children to come together and overcome the trauma they`ve experienced. We provide play, singing, dancing, just normal children`s activities. It`s a way of overcoming the terrible experiences that they went through.”

After being displaced from their homes and communities, living in emergency shelters and witnessing so much death and destruction, children experience an extraordinary amount of stress during and after a crisis. While trauma support is often overlooked within response efforts, it is essential to helping children return to their normal lives.

“Children come for a few hours, then they can go back to their families,” Julien explains. “The children that we speak to, they say that when they’re at the child-centred space, they can forget about what’s happened. They can be themselves, they can be children again, they can play with other children and for a few hours at least they can forget the nightmare that they went though.”

Children are particularly vulnerable in post-disaster situations as they may be separated from family members or they may be left alone with older siblings while parents go in search of food and water. Child trafficking and exploitation is a serious risk.

“Clearly there are issues around child protection in emergencies,” Julien says. “We haven’t seen anything on the ground yet, but our experience shows that children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in situations like these. There’s a lot of chaos, children are wandering the streets on their own unattended. Child-centred spaces are also a way to combat these issues.”

Hear Julien talking to SBS radio about child-centred spaces here.

 

ChildFund has established child-centred spaces in Roxas City where 5,000 children have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

UPDATE ON SPONSORED CHILDREN IN THE PHILIPPINES: Reports are in from most of the hardest hit areas and at this stage, all children have been accounted for. Please understand that our information is changing daily, yet we wanted to share the tentative good news. There are still risks in the days ahead with food and clean water in short supply, and many families who have lost homes. In some areas, almost 100% of houses were damaged or destroyed. We hope this information will provide sponsors with some measure of reassurance about the immediate safety of sponsored children. Thank you for your patience and your ongoing support as we focus on our emergency response and begin planning for the massive rebuilding effort that will be needed.

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