21 November 2013

Typhoon Haiyan Diary: From the field in Tanauan

A woman cradles her baby amid the debris of Super Typhoon Haiyan  © UNICEF/2013/Maitem
Today, I drove with a UNICEF team out of Tacloban, which I'm sure you've heard of. It's the city of +200,000 people that was leveled by super typhoon Haiyan and from where most of the world's media have been reporting.

Rightfully so, because the people of Tacloban need all the help they can get - especially the children.
But you may not have heard of the town of Tanauan which has a population of more than 50,000. Tanauan is about 30 kms south of Tacloban.

As far as the eye can see, there is not a single centimeter that has been spared from Haiyan's destruction along the 30 kms of road ... And the total destruction carries on well beyond Tanauan. It is difficult to process the impact this is having on people's lives, especially the children.

We travelled with UNICEF's Regional Director Dan Toole and we stopped at the Tanauan Town Hall. It is now an emergency medical ward. The local Department of Social Welfare and Development representative had requested shelter materials and we delivered over 100 large size tarpaulins to help provide much needed shelter from both the pouring rain and blazing sun.

We also checked with them on some of the most immediate needs, which included hygiene kits and water bladders which will be provided. We are also concerned about the possible outbreak of disease and working with the government and partners Unicef will be supporting emergency measles campaigns at evacuation points where people who have lost everything are staying.

I have served in many emergencies around the world and while its difficult to compare, the extent of the damage here is really quite impossible to process or understand. It is everywhere. It is total.  The body bag trucks continue to be loaded as debris is cleared away and the smell as they pass by is overpowering.

But there is hope and smiles on the faces of the children and we know that investing in children at a time like this builds their resilience and that of their families and communities.

There is so much to be done here, in Tanauan, in Tacloban and in so many other communities and we are making progress, together with partners and the government. We should have some more good news tomorrow on a new issue as well.

Unicef is working around the clock and it's great to be part of the team - the team in Tacloban, the team in the Philippines, and the global UNICEF team. Everyone is playing their part.

Author: Kent Page, Senior Advisor Strategic Communications, UNICEF Philippines

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