American Samoa – Hitting the Ground Sprinting

Josh Madfis, child protection specialist, Save the Children Samoa 

Oct. 4, 2009 – Leone, American Samoa

I arrived in American Samoa three nights ago.  I hit the ground sprinting.  My first goal was to see children affected by this disaster.  I wanted to learn from them and from the parents how they were doing.  The first thing I did Friday morning was visit a shelter in the village of Leone.  Leone was one of the hardest hit villages. The damage there reminded of what I saw in Hurricane Katrina; foundations where homes used to be, mountains of rubble and debris, churches with gaping holes. 

I was immediately moved by warmth of the Samoan people.  They are so kind and open to strangers.  They communicated their fears and worries about their children’s health, well being and future.  The kids were all over the map.  Some jazzed up by being displaced and in shelters, some sick and coughing, some withdrawn and depressed.  There will be a need to address the traumatic events many experienced.  They also needed safe places to play.  Shelters in many cases are in the center of the destruction.  They are surrounded by dangerous debris, broken glass and toxic waste.  Children have little to no clothes and shoes.  I played soccer yesterday with an 8-year-old boy wearing his dad’s old sneakers.  He did pretty well despite this!

I am working to get Child Friendly Spaces established in all the shelters and the FEMA disaster recovery center.  I would also like to get health messages to kids about where it’s safe to play and how to wash and keep their hands clean.

More to come!

Learn more about Save the Children's response in American Samoa

Indonesia – Providing Critical Supplies

Allison Zelkowitz, program manager, Save the Children

Oct. 4, 2009 Pasa Dama, Indonesia

Allison's blog also appears on Anderson Cooper's 360 blog page.

Allison Zelkowitz I’m now with a team of 12 Save the Children staff and three volunteers in the village of Pasa Dama, in the district of Padang Pariaman, about 50 kilometers north of Padang City. The earthquake devastated this area - it is the worst hit and, up until now, the least helped. Many areas have seen no relief.

This is where Save the Children will focus its humanitarian response and where we reached more than 450 families today with shelter and essential supplies.

In the last 24 hours, our team assessed 16 of the surrounding villages. We found that 70 to 95 percent of the homes have been severely damaged or destroyed. Almost everyone we spoke to was sleeping on the ground outside their homes, under makeshift tents. Children tell us they are afraid another quake will strike.

Today our team distributed tarpaulins and plastic sheeting to 458 families in two of these hard-hit villages. These items are critical — it’s been storming heavily for the last few hours, and the rains are expected to continue.

We’ve heard from both community leaders and health workers that colds and respiratory infections are on the rise especially in children since they’ve been sleeping outdoors, exposed to the elements.

Save the Children provided each of these families with 'hygiene kits,' which include soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other essentials. Each kit is enough for a family of five. Although some people were able to rescue their belongings from damaged homes, many lost everything and literally escaped with only the clothes on their backs. I’ve watched a number of families pick through the rubble, looking for anything they can still use.

I’m still shocked when I see another house that’s crumbled, or hear someone’s escape story. But I’m amazed by the local communities’ resilience. And I’m humbled by their generosity.

Our team has crowded into a young couple’s two-bedroom home to sleep it survived the quake with only small cracks in the walls. Today some villagers insisted that I sit down with them and join in their community lunch. I protested at first, but after much urging took a little rice and vegetables. And yesterday, when I was speaking with three mothers and their children inside a tent, they offered me water to drink even though all they possessed was a box of instant noodles, an oil lamp, and some bottled water! That time, I politely refused.

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

Philippines – The Wait Is Over

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 4, 2009  Manila, Philippines

Latha _233  The wait is over…. Typhoon Parma has smashed into the northern Philippines, missing Metropolitan Manila. So much is happening here. I have been desperately trying to get through to our contacts in northern Luzon to see what destruction the typhoon has caused. We hear that the roads are completely gone and the only way to get there is by flight. But there are no scheduled flights to that area so we have to get space on a missionary flight. So far, our attempts to get seats on the flight have failed. So we turn our attention to all that needs to be done in Manila. And there is plenty that needs to be done. The Save the Children team is out now distributing more relief supplies to the children and families who urgently need them.  And I am here in the office, pounding on my computer, answering all the e-mails that keep popping into my inbox from colleagues, supporters and others who are eager to know the latest about what we are doing to help.

On her return from the field Gia Chu, our communications manager, shared her experience with me:

I joined our team today to distribute another batch of relief items for affected families of Typhoon Ketsana in Muntinlupa. Every time I see children with their parents gather around to receive relief kits from Save the Children, I cannot help but ask myself how these children are feeling and are coping amidst this very difficult time.

Children come up to me as I walk around the evacuation centers, eager to tell me their stories.  I learned that one child rescued his younger siblings during the storm and looked after them because his parents were away. Another boy told me that he didn’t feel scared at all because his father was beside him. Two girls from an evacuation center in Cainta told me how they missed their homes and the things they lost in the flood. But all of them were very concerned about their parents who are fighting to make ends meet more than ever.

Children are resilient, sometimes even more than adults. In spite of everything that has happened to them, they are still able to laugh, sing, dance and play. Most of them can’t wait to go back to school to learn. Some take care of their younger siblings as a way to help their parents. Others help clean up their damaged houses, and collect scrap metal to sell and earn money to buy food for their family.

We need to be more like these children. There’s so much to be done, and we cannot waste time. Let’s continue working together to give children what they deserve—a world that fights for children’s survival, a world that protects them, a world that prioritizes their well-being and development, and a world that listens to them.

I can sense and feel what Gia is saying… I get back to pounding the keyboard on my computer and then I hear someone saying with excitement that one of the donors we approached has asked us for a full proposal. This means we are reasonably assured of getting some resources … this makes me feel good … only briefly…. Yes, we will be able to reach out to a few hundred  children with this money. But there are thousands more waiting for our help … we need to keep working until we have reached every last child who needs our support.

 

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