Photo Diary, My UNICEF visit to Tacloban

 

 

I went on a UNICEF site visit to Tacloban a couple of weeks ago. As with every UNICEF trip I’ve taken in the past, I was extremely moved. It has been nine months since this strongest storm to ever hit landfall devastated eastern Visayas. Driving through Tacloban and parts of Palo, Leyte, you can still see many remnants of the physical damage. It’s still quite overwhelming. But in this trip, I also saw a lot of hope.

It was good to see some smiles again. But ask any individual who lived through Haiyan/Yolanda, “How are you doing?/Kamusta ka na?” and tears well up in their eyes. The wounds are deep. Any hint of rain or strong winds brings them back to that fateful day last November 8th. I didn’t want anyone to have to relive their harrowing ordeal. Almost everyone gathered to see me at my visit lost someone they loved during the storm. Instead I wanted to see what life is like presently for those who were affected.

Over 14.1 million people were affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Of those, 5.9 million were children. UNICEF continues to provide life-saving and recovery assistance for children affected by Typhoon Haiyan. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.

Here’s my photo diary of my visit to Tacloban and Palo,Leyte.

 

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Some of the most incredible scenes were of these huge ships that ran aground in Tacloban during Haiyan. In Barangay Anibong alone, there were five ships.

 

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This barangay in Anibong has been declared a “no dwelling zone.” But despite that, people have rebuilt their houses near the water.

 

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Like the sign says, this is still a “danger zone.”

 

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This ship went inland the furthest. It actually hit the high way.

 

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Here’s the other end of that ship that went furthest inland. When my friends saw my photos, one of them asked why these boats haven’t been pulled back into shore yet. She felt frustrated like no one was doing anything. But I have to tell you that these are huge ships. And they are so far inland. Nothing can pull these back to the water.

 

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So instead of being pulled away, some of the ships were being sliced up into pieces by the ship owners.

 

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The irony. A sticker saying “Think Safety” was plastered on this cargo container. It was one of the hundreds of containers from the port that washed ashore. It now serves as foundation for this house that’s not even supposed to be there.

 

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The barangay captain telling me about their dilemma.

 

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Rosario, the Barangay Captain in Anibong.

 

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With the Chief of Field Office Maulid Warfa at the UNICEF office in Tacloban. Some of the UNICEF staff have been on site since the typhoon struck last November 8th 2013. Whenever I visit sites with UNICEF I am not only touched by the stories of the local people but also of the professionals who have devoted their life doing humanitarian work. These are the people who respond to emergencies around the world.

 

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We went to Barayong Elementary school in Palo, Leyte. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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The acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School showing me and Cromwell Bacareza, OIC of UNICEF WASH Team some of the physical improvements in the school, like a new roof. This school was severely affected by Haiyan/Yolanda. It is located on a mountain. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014

 

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It was heartwarming to see kids back in school. To date, UNICEF has provided learning materials and supplies for over 500,000 pre-school and school-aged children (3 to 17 years) across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas.

 

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I loved seeing smiles back in their faces.

 

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That afternoon, the grade 4 and 5 kids were writing letters to their pen pals from Australia.

 

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This is such a great activity.

 

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Erwin Dolina, teacher-in-charge and acting-principal of Barayong Elementary School and his makeshift office.

 

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His laptop is broken so he is using a separate monitor hooked up to the laptop’s keyboard. Mr. Dolina said the school is understaffed. They only have 4 teachers for the entire school. So teachers double-up with classes. He has to do administrative work in addition to teaching and correcting papers. He also has to check the school on weekends because there are no doors or locks to protect their supplies.

 

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There is a deep well at the back of the school. In order to ensure safety, UNICEF installed pumps and pipes to bring in water nearer to the school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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OIC of UNICEF’s WASH Program (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Cromwell Bacareza shows me that water from the well is stored in a tank which is connected to these pipes. This is a makeshift lavatory where kids can wash their hands. It’s known as tippy tap. UNICEF supports schools affected by Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda by providing water, sanitation & hygiene facilities and supplies to ensure that children stay healthy, which helps them stay in school. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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The tippy tap is made of modest material. For a low cost, we can ensure that children have access to clean water. UNICEF also provided schools with soap. It is very important for children to wash their hands with soap and water. This needs to be instilled in them at a young age so that we can be healthy and germ-free. Because of the tippy tap, hand-washing becomes a social activity. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF also installed safe and clean temporary toilets in every classroom. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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In another town called Abucay, I visited the temporary bunkhouses. This community had an amazing “Child-Friendly Space” set up by UNICEF. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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Inside the tent. A child plays…

 

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I kept falling in love with the babies. Cutie pie. Sigh.

 

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This child-friendly space in Abucay Bunkhouse in Tacloban is a place where young children can play, sing and dance under the guidance of city social welfare workers and volunteers.

 

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To date, more than 40,000 children across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas have accessed psychosocial support at child-friendly spaces provided by UNICEF.

 

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We took a walk around the Abucay temporary bunkhouses. One of the fathers was tending to his container garden. I love that there is a consciousness to grow food. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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With the bunkhouse manager Joseph dela Pena. The bunkhouse is one of the temporary housing programs provided by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). It houses over 180 families with provision to water and sanitation facilities and a UNICEF child-friendly space tent.

 

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I loved seeing these ornaments decorating the alleys. These were made by the community.

 

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Before entering any house, I took my shoes off.

 

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This mother has five children. Except for the baby, they are all back in school. Her eyes welled up with tears when she recalled their experience when Haiyan/Yolanda hit. She said she and her husband hung on to all their kids and climbed the ceiling of a structure. They stayed there all day. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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A pretty young mom shares with me her experience breastfeeding her baby.

 

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I’m always happy to see a breastfeeding mom in any situation. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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I also visited a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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This is a weekly program where mothers can get together and have counselling about nutrition, breastfeeding and maternal health issues. There is a child-friendly play space for toddlers.

 

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Another cutie pie.

 

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UNICEF Chief of Tacloban Field office Maulid Warfa and I spent some time playing with children while their mothers attend a UNICEF-supported Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) counselling in the adjacent room in Barangay 64, Tacloban City. IYCF counselling sessions ensure that parents and caregivers breastfeed and give proper nutritious food to their children to keep them healthy. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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City health workers in Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban show me the vaccine refrigerator. UNICEF is providing vaccines, cold chain equipment, and vaccine management training for health personnel across Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda-affected areas. Photo by UNICEF/Joey Reyna 2014.

 

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UNICEF is supporting the Department of Health (Philippines)’s National Immunization Campaign this September, which aims to protect 13 million children under 5 against polio, measles and rubella.

 

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It was good to see mothers bringing in their babies to get regular medical checks at the Sagkahan District Health Centre in Tacloban City. Cute baby alert again.

 

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I took the opportunity to film a short video to help fundraise for UNICEF. For information on how to donate, click here.

 

For information on UNICEF’s programs in the Philippines, visit www.unicef.ph and like Unicef Philippines in Facebook. To know about my work with UNICEF as Special Advocate for Children, click here.

 

Leave a comment

  • Valerie Caulin

    Made me cry. My dear friend is also in Tacloban right for another NGO. I’m very proud of her.

    • Anonymous

      They are all doing such great work. And there’s so much more that needs to be done. Best regards to your friend.

  • Mary Dittrich

    Thank you for sharing this. It makes me sad to see the destruction of the city but I’m happy that life went on. This post and the pictures you have posted reinforces my dream of doing humanitarian trips as a nurse.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Elna. I can’t really cry or show them that I am sad because it’s not about me. And I really want to bring their smiles back. The gestures by foreign schools and churches such as that penpal project really touches them in a positive way. Every little effort makes a difference.