Save the Children has raised concern that hundreds of thousands of children and adults suffer psychosocial distress due to prolonged stay in evacuation centers, with no certainty of when they can return homes and attend classes.
An emergency response team has set up mobile Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) in two evacuation centers in Balayan town in Batangas to allow children to learn and play in a safe environment.
Save the Children Child Ambassador Xia Vigor joined activities in Child Friendly Spaces over the weekend.
The 10-year-old child actress, who starred in the movie “Miracle in Cell No. 7” last December socialized with the displaced children. She led a read-along with children aged 2-4, who have been staying in cramped evacuation centers since the volcano erupted a week ago.
“I would like to tell other children that what happened to them is only temporary and they should not lose hope,” said Vigor.
Xia has been actively seeking donations through her social media platforms to raise funds to sustain distribution of life-saving items to affected children and their families. These include N95 masks, family hygiene kits, and household essentials.
The Child Friendly Spaces cater to different age groups from 2 -4, 5-9, 10-12, and 13-17 to play and socialize in a safe and supported environment. The activities – storytelling, coloring and free play allow children to process their experiences – are critical in the recovery and resilience building process.
Part of the CFS activities is to inform children to know their environment, and provide ways to stay safe from potential abuse and exploitation.
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines said, ”Natural calamities such as the Taal Volcano eruption have devastating and prolonged impact on children as they are forced to leave homes, miss out on school and stay in evacuation centers without knowing when they will be home.”
He said the prolonged displacement of children impacts their emotional well-being, and pose risks to their safety and security.
CFS activities also allow parents and caregivers to attend to pressing needs like sourcing food and household supplies, coordinate longer-term accommodation while knowing their children are safe and supported, said Muyot.
Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian Manager of Save the Children Philippines said the team is also coordinating with the Department of Education (DepEd) for possible assistance in learners tracking and facilitate learning continuity through the distribution of learning and teaching supplies, and learning spaces.
“This is an escalating emergency for children as hundreds of thousands of them don’t have enough food, clean water, and they are forced to leave homes and miss out on school,” he said.
He said small children in evacuation centers have been experiencing respiratory problems – coughs, colds, fever and face the risk of pneumonia.
A total of 300,000 people living six towns located in 14 kilometer danger zone of the Taal volcano have been forced to leave homes, with 124,000 of them are children. They are staying in evacuation centers in Batangas and nearby towns, while others opted to stay with their relatives and friends.