Our BEACON box ensures a safe birth

Amelita with her baby and the BEACON box

While Typhoon Ruby pummelled the community around them, Amelita and her husband Remy, cried tears of joy after the safe birth of their baby boy. 

They were helped by trained midwife Criselda who said she couldn't have done it without Save the Children's 'BEACON' box - a storm-proof box that contains clean birthing supplies such as sterile blades, alcohol, flashlight and even a birth certificate, to help a pregnant woman deliver safely during or immediately after a disaster. Criselda says, "When I heard about Ruby, I knew there were pregnant women in the village due to give birth at that time. I took the BEACON box to our village so that we were prepared."

Save the Children's BEACON (Birthing Essentials and Care of Newborns) Box project was inspired by our work in Yolanda-hit areas. Over 1 million people lost access to health services when Yolanda hit the Philippines last year. With an estimated 750 births due every day in the typhoon-hit areas, this meant many women delivered in damaged health clinics, at home, or out in the open without clean supplies and electricity - endangering the lives of mothers and newborns. 

"In the middle of typhoon Ruby, my wife was in pain and about to give birth. I rushed to the midwife's house with my motorcycle. It was a difficult road and I had to clear fallen trees out of the way", Remy said. 

Amelita's husband took the midwife back to his home to help his wife as she went into labour.

"It was difficult because there was no electricity but I had everything I needed in the BEACON box to help her deliver safely. I even used the flashlight included. I thank Save the Children for providing us with the clean birthing kits," the midwife added.

As she recalls what happened that night, Amelita said: "I was worried about my baby because the winds were strong. I had difficulty giving birth - of all my pregnancies, this was the longest because it was cold and I was losing strength."

"We will call our baby boy, Remy, Jr. after my husband", said Amelita. "The BEACON box was a big help because it helped deliver my baby safely."

The number of people affected by Typhoon Ruby currently stands at 2 million. The storm made landfall in Dolores town, Eastern Samar on Saturday evening, the National Disaster Council said. The storm made subsequent landfalls in Cataingan town, Masbate on 7 December and in Torrijos town, Marinduque and Laiya, Batangas on 8 December. Precautionary evacuations in some Metro Manila areas took place as the storm hit Mindoro province but the feared flooding and storm surges spared the capital.

Many who evacuated their coastal homes have now returned to their houses. The extent of Ruby's impact is still uncertain, with reports of flooding, damage to housing, trees down, and both communications and electricity out across northern Samar. Road travel is still difficult due to landslides, flooding or storm surge damage in some villages. The National Disaster Council have confirmed three deaths, but the Philippines Red Cross is reporting a death toll of over 20.

Ned Olney, Country Director for Save the Children, says, "We're here to save lives so if the death toll stays low, we'll be relieved. But let's not minimize the impact of Ruby based on this. Ruby was destructive and will have caused extensive damage wherever she landed, to homes and livelihoods. Save the Children is assessing that damage to communities."

Coordinating with the government and other aid agencies, Save the Children's response teams have made initial assessments of the affected areas in Tacloban, Ormoc, Estancia, Sorsogon, Legaspi and Samar. Our teams travel with trucks full of relief supplies, ready to distribute to the most affected communities. In Bicol, we have a mobile water treatment unit on standby to help children and families who may not have access to clean water. In Tacloban, Save the Children installed water bladders with tap stands for evacuees, and held child-play and hygiene sessions to help children refocus after the storm.

Michel Rooijackers, Deputy Country Director for Save the Children, explains "It's too early to say the extent of damage. Save the Children will continue with its assessments and reach out to children and families who need our help most. We are expecting to see distressed children reliving Yolanda and reacting badly to the uncertainty. Our teams will be getting to families and evacuation centres, and setting up Child-Friendly Spaces where children can play, be safe and stay protected."