Over 2 Weeks Since Typhoon Ketsana, Still No Electricity

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Latha Caleb joined Save the Children in 2005 as director of the tsunami programme in India. She supported the formation of Save the Children India, before moving to the Philippines.

Oct. 8, 2009  Manila

LathaReszdIMG_2656 I visited our driver Ruel’s home today. His home was washed over fully in the flood. I met Ruel, his wife Rose Ann, and his 5 children.

His home – or whatever remained –had clothesline strung all across and there were clothes drying. Every side of the wall in his home was broken.

It is more than two weeks since Ketsana raged in Manila, and still Ruel‘s home did not have electricity, and we had to look around using flashlights. 

Ruel had lost weight and looked tired. He said that he was most worried for his children. The only way he could save them from getting drowned in the water was to break open the walls on the sides so that the water would drain through and not stagnate and rise up to the roof level.

All around his home there were visible signs of debris and houses that had collapsed. Many homes still had water logging and people living in those homes had elevated all their belongings whatever they had salvaged on to a higher level.

Ruel said that his son wanted to go to school, but all his books and his school bag were lost to the swirling waters. I had carried with me the message from Carolyn Miles and from Charlie MacCormack and gave it to Ruel.

We used a flash light to read it together and as he read the note I could see tears glistening in the corner of Ruel’s eyes. He was so touched by the note. Maraming Salamat Po – that is thank you very much in Filipino, was all he could say.

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

Tonight 347 Families Will Stay Drier Under Tarps

Allison Zelkowitz, Save the Children program manager

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

October 8, 2009, 10:56 PM

I think I may actually get a full night’s sleep tonight – for some reason this makes me feel guilty. My colleague is snoring on the small sofa outside my room. He’s fully dressed, and there’s an empty bed just five feet away, so I don’t think he meant to fall asleep there. Everyone is exhausted – the aid workers, the government officials, the journalists, and especially the families whose houses have crumbled.

And it’s only been a week!

Today four of us on the  team moved from our first base camp north of Padang to a small village in the mountains near Lake Mininjau. Save the Children is working to expand our emergency relief program quickly, so that we can help as many people as we can when they need it most.

Our goal is to reach 150,000 people affected by the earthquake with humanitarian aid, as well as provide child protection and education programs.DSC_0102 

But one of the hardest things about this job is that it never feels like enough.

There are always more communities who want our support, more people who need food and shelter, and more children who require care and protection.

Here in this tiny village, where only a handful of houses still stand, this is incredibly apparent.

So I try to focus on the small achievements – tonight, 347 families will stay drier under the tarps we gave them. For now, that is enough.

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



Mothers dying in child birth! How could this be happening?

Latha Caleb, Save the Children country director, Philippines

Oct. 7, 2009  Manila, Philippines

How does one stay focused when everything around you screams for attention? This is how I felt when I entered the evacuation camp in the Cupang Elementary School in Muntinlupa. There was stagnant water everywhere, 15 families huddled into one classroom, women bathing on one side, children playing, several pregnant women wandering around, people sleeping on the floor, someone washing clothes, another bathing a little child.LathaIMG_2666  


My eyes fell on a lady holding a little child. To me, it looked like the child was a few days old. I asked her how old the child was and she said," 2 months. " The baby did not look like a two-month old child at all.


I asked her when the child was born, thinking there must be some miscalculation, and she said, "July. He was born in his 7th month."


I held out my hands and asked her if I could carry the child and she willingly gave him to me. As I was holding the child she said to me, “The mother died giving birth to this child.” I was shocked, and angry, and frustrated all at the same time. Mothers dying in child birth! How could this be happening?


"He is being breastfed by other lactating women in our neighborhood,” she said. "He will need several mothers to replace the one he lost."


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