THE Philippines, from Batanes to Tawi Tawi, has been wobbling piteously since last weekend after Tropical Storm Paeng (international name Nalgae) hit land and left a swath of destruction and damage in this typhoon-prone country of 114 million.
Relief and rescue officials are still out there on the ground while the sun continues to squint through the November clouds, with officials counting the numbers of those killed – more than a hundred – and missing as well as damage to infrastructure and agricultural crops in the billions of pesos.
Last weekend, Paeng’s ferocity was straight away seen in Catanduanes with strong winds and heavy rains that induced flooding, landslides and eventual displacement in other regions of this country.
The country was still trying to stretch its limbs from the remorseless jarring by Typhoon Karding, which affected 1.5 million people in Metro Manila, Cordillera and Calabarzon regions when Paeng lashed the whole of the country, not to mention the synchronous strong earth shocks in the north.
In the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) alone, over 78,000 households were reported affected by flooding and rain-induced landslides.
We share the concern raised by UNICEF for children and families affected in the BARMM Region and other areas of the country needing water, sanitation and hygiene, health and nutrition, education and protection.
We know that UNICEF in the Philippines is closely monitoring the situation with its UN partners and is coordinating assessments with national and local authorities.
Indeed, as UNICEF Representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said:“The rights of children are under threat with each typhoon that inundates their communities.
“Children are the least responsible for extreme weather events, and yet they are the ones being displaced, in mental distress and cut-off from schools and hospitals. Communities in the Philippines are simply not safe enough.”
We know too that UNICEF and the Department of Social Welfare and Development as well as the local government units have pre-positioned emergency supplies for families to respond to affected people’s needs for safe drinking water, sanitation, hygiene, medical supplies, nutrition, education, and child protection.
Perhaps it is time we revisited people’s readiness to convey and receive advance warnings of impending storms and floods which will not only give people the opportunity to be proactive in preventing damage to their property but save lives in this country which averages 21 typhoons a year.
Initiatives like this flood early warning system and dike monitoring which should be set up posthaste to address the manner in which natural disasters, such as flooding, can be accurately assessed and when (and how often) warnings should be communicated.
State-of-the-art global forecast systems and early warning mechanisms are being fine-tuned, to create an operational tool for decision makers, including national and regional water authorities, water resource managers, hydropower companies, civil protection and first line responders, as well as international humanitarian aid organizations.
We need not wait for the next weather tragedy.