It was incredible to see ChildFund’s emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines unfold last week.
When Haiyan struck the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 9, ChildFund staff from across the globe were in Bangkok, Thailand, as part of activities marking the 75th year of our founding. Representative staff from more than 50 countries had gathered to exchange ideas around innovations in our work for children, to discuss the changing environments in which children live and plan for how we can improve the impact of our work in the future.
We woke up Friday morning to learn that Haiyan was hitting the central area of the Philippines. We also woke up to a hotel with no electricity. Haiyan had also brought heavy rains to Bangkok, and a tree near our hotel came down in the night, taking out power lines. We started our meeting a little in the dark (figuratively and literally) and very sweaty with no air-conditioning in the 90+ humid weather.
By Saturday, reports from the Philippines started coming in. We learned Haiyan had devastated Tacloban and surrounding areas in the Visayas – where one-third of ChildFund’s project areas were located. We knew we had to respond.
REUTERS/Japan Meteorological AgencyNOAA, Courtesy of Trust.org
Immediately, our emergency response systems were set in motion. Katherine Manik, our national director for the Philippines briefed the 12 CEOs of the ChildFund Alliance, just as we were starting our semi-annual meeting. She shared an incredible satellite image of Haiyan just as it was hitting the country – the scale of the typhoon was hard to comprehend – what may turn out to be the highest winds ever recorded had just plowed through an area where 10 million people were living in homes that could not withstand such force (really, what buildings could?). The eye of Haiyan (called Yolanda in the Philippines) was clear as a bell, an ominous sign. We learned that three of ChildFund’s local partners’ operating areas were directly in the devastated areas.
On the positive side, for the past several years, we had been preparing for such a disaster, as typhoons occur frequently in the Philippines. All of our local communities had been trained in disaster risk reduction – how to reduce your vulnerability to a natural disaster. In addition, they had all been trained in disaster management, including the international SPHERE standards for emergency response.
Several ChildFund staff prepared to leave for the Philippines immediately, including one vice president, who volunteered to join the team to help support our communications. Once in the Philippines, members of the emergency response team were deployed from Manila with enough supplies to support themselves and their work for a week.
Due to the severity of the storm, the number of people impacted and ChildFund’s extensive experience in the area of the world, we have established the Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. In addition to responding to urgent needs of children and families, we are committing to helping with the long term and equally critical recovery period. The ChildFund Alliance has set a goal of raising $10 million, with $4 million for emergency assistance to children now and $6 million for longer term recovery – helping families rebuild their lives. This is the largest disaster response ChildFund has mounted since the 2004 Asian tsunami response.
Children are wandering the decimated streets.
As we continued our meetings in Bangkok, CEOs from around the ChildFund Alliance sprang into action, reaching out to supporters for help. Leaders from ChildFund New Zealand, Australia and other countries would stop me in the hallways to advise that they had just had a commitment for $100,000 or $200,000. In the U.S., ChildFund also launched a major appeal online and began reaching out to donors who sponsored children in the Philippines. The immediate support from around the world was gratifying.
In the days that followed, we learned that our community training had paid off – all of the children enrolled in ChildFund programs and our staff were accounted for! Although many lost their homes and their livelihoods, they were alive. I also learned that ChildFund was acknowledged by UNICEF as the first NGO to get a Child-Centered Space (a structured and safe place to care for children while their parents are busy restarting their lives) up and running.
ChildFund has set up Child-Centered Spaces as safe havens for children.
We still have a long way to attain our $10 million goal, but we are committed to supporting children and families in the Philippines. If you want to help, please donate to our Philippines Relief and Recovery Fund. Thank you!