Philippines – Lunch Can Wait, but a Child Cannot!


Latha Caleb, Save the Children Country Director,

Philippines Oct. 2, 2009 – Manila, Philippines

Another day… there is tension in the city…a lot of fear as Manila is preparing itself for another typhoon that could possibly hit the islands in the early hours of Saturday. People are scrambling to stock up on food and water and other essentials. The government has notified people to go home early to be able to prepare their families for the super-typhoon! I have not stocked up on food for the last 6 weeks and my stock of food is down to two cartons of milk and a packet of cereal. There is tons of work to be done…. The emergency team meeting…welcoming Annie Foster – the team leader who is flying in from Guatemala – ensuring that all the requests for resources to do our work is followed up… cluster meetings and coordination meetings to be attended…check if the team that went for non food items distribution has come back from the field… follow up on procurement…..get the latest situation update done…track the latest typhoon…follow up on requests for communication materials.. photos and comments for use at head quarters… be on the conference call at 9 pm to touch base with the home office in Westport…the list of things to be done keeps growing… I seem to be prioritizing and reprioritizing my list, thinking which one of these things can wait and what needs to be done immediately. Suddenly I remember what Riel, our sponsorship manager, told me. “A couple of days ago I was among the staff who spent time packing the relief goods. Today it is my first time joining the relief distribution. At 1PM, we hurried to Western Bicutan, one of our sponsorship communities. Parents with their children, and some children without their parents, made up the queue of people waiting to receive the relief goods. We finished around 4pm. There was no time to eat lunch but it doesn’t matter. Lunch can wait, but a child cannot!

Yes! We need to do all this all at the same time! We need to make sure we are doing this so that we don’t keep children waiting! We need to do it Now! And in the Filipino way of saying it – Now Na!

Learn more about Save the Children's response in the Philippines.

Vietnam – Flying into Da Nang

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 2, 2009 -  Da Nang, Vietnam

Flying into Da Nang it’s cloudy. But then, briefly, a break in the clouds and a glimpse of the situation on the ground. Water. Everywhere. All the fields completely flooded, broken by traces of roads.

I’ve been here before. A bustling port city which thrives on trade, agriculture and tourism. All on pause for the moment but it can be amazing how resilient people can be. Let’s see.

I’m with a rapid assessment and response team. We also have teams going to five other provinces nearby. We’ll get some initial relief supplies going to the worst affected areas and really try to understand the consequences of the storm for children and families.

We land and it’s raining heavily. Leaving the airport we see that this new rain is flooding the streets but clearly people are starting to try to get on with their lives. As usual in Vietnam, mopeds are everywhere. It’s quite tricky to get around with over a foot of water on the roads. There is debris on the streets. Lots of damage – advertising boards, uprooted trees, minor debris. However, we’re in the city. The water will drain away quicker in the wind.

We get some help from a friendly hotel owner who is letting us establish a temporary base in his building. I ask him what it was like when the storm came through two days ago. He said, “We’re used to it here – we get a typhoon every year. But we can’t remember the last time a typhoon brought so much rain. Most of the city is OK but they’re really struggling inland. People are poorer there and with crops and homes destroyed they will find it hard to recover.”

News comes in on supplies. We should have 400 household kits later today, with more to folllow. Kits have a water container, 2 blankets, a large mosquito net, a kettle, 2 cooking pots, a bucket and a few other utensils for some of the households that lost all their possession. We’ll prioritize pregnant mothers, those with young children and families that have lost their breadwinner.

We’ll need to supplement this with ways to help families whose houses are wrecked. With so much water lying around we’re also worried about sanitation and hygiene. It needs close watching – children are the first to suffer if drinking water is dirty, if they don’t get enough of the right food, or when diseases start to spread. It’s a vicious circle, especially for newborn children.

I meet one of our staff, Trung. He’s based in Hue, 100 km north of here.

“How are you? Family OK?” I ask.

“Yes we’re all OK – no one hurt but the house has taken some damage,” he replies.

I’m relieved, and happy to see him. He’s a doctor and I know we’ll need his skills and knowledge of the area.

A chat with Huy, a colleague back in Hanoi is not so upbeat. He says, “That second typhoon’s approaching Luzon in the Philippines – another strong one – fifty-fifty chance of it heading your way in a few days.”

Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.

Vietnam – 36 Hours After the Storm

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 1, 2009 -  Hanoi, Vietnam

NickSmall Arrived in Hanoi about 36 hours after a storm lashed the coast of central Vietnam. The typhoon brought very strong winds but also dumped an enormous amount of rain after landfall. Our team have already jumped into action, Typhoon Ketsana hit several provinces where we were already working to improve the situation of poorer children and families in Vietnam.

We’re relieved to hear that all our team are accounted for but the damage looks bad. We also have reports of heavy rains continuing to make the search and rescue very difficult. The government is taking a lead on trying to get to people trapped by the floods.

My colleague finally makes contact with his two nephews in Hoi-An, a well known tourist town. They managed to get word out that they are OK. Hoi-An is heavily flooded. They are stuck on the first floor but with adequate food stocks.

We spend the afternoon organizing further supplies, basic things to help a household get back on its feet. We need to get them out there quickly. We establish an operations room in our Hanoi office.

But we’re worried, the rain is still coming and there is limited news from many remote areas.

“How bad is it?” I ask Hang, our emergency manager – she’s worked for us for several years doing emergency response.

“This one is bad. Da Nang was hit in 2006 by Typhoon Xangsane. It caused a lot of damage, ripping off roofing. But it was a dry typhoon – no rain, only strong winds. We haven’t seen floods like this for a long, long time. People are suffering.”

News comes through of the damage caused by the earthquake in Indonesia and fears of another big storm approaching the Philippines. It really puts us under pressure but our job here is to focus 110 percent on getting relief to the affected children in Vietnam. We cannot get distracted.

At least the airport in Da Nang is now open. We can fly tomorrow. I’ll be up at 4 AM for the flight. It takes an hour – we should be on the ground by early morning, some basic supplies arriving later in the day.

Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.