Carla*,16 was made to carry her neighbor’s baby and a five-year-old child as she ran for safety after fire broke out in a row of shanties in Pasay City last month.
“Our house burnt down. We were not able to save anything but ourselves,” Carla told Save the Children. She was reunited with her family at a public school, which has been serving as a temporary shelter for the affected families.
Atty. Alberto Muyot, Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children Philippines, said children who live in poverty are the most exposed to shocks and calamities in urban settings. The situation of these children and their families is further aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic as they have to stay in cramped spaces, with limited access to water, clean toilets and hygiene facilities, thus, making it difficult to comply with health protocols of frequent handwashing, and social distancing.
As an immediate response, Save the Children Philippines’ Building Urban Children’s Resilience against the Shocks and Threats of Resettlement (BURST) team distributed relief food packages, groceries, fresh produce, and hygiene kits to children and their families currently staying at the Pasay City North High School, and provided information on protection against COVID-19.
The team also conducted a children’s consultation to elicit their views on the situation and identify issues and recommendations.
“Save the Children makes sure children’s rights to participation are fulfilled by providing them a platform to speak on matters that affect them, and be listened to by the government,” said Muyot.
Lou Pambid, project manager of BURST said the results of children’s consultation were processed and submitted to the local officials of Pasay City to provide guidance on policies and actions on children affected by shocks and resettlement.
The BURST team also initiated a Facebook page with over 200 child-members and supported by 14 adults. The platform enables children to interact and post their questions which are responded to by the project team.
Miriam,*15, is also one of the children displaced by fire, but she finds her stay at the public school a respite from their confined home.
“I feel safer sleeping in the school because there is no electricity at home. It still smells smoke in our home,” said Miriam. While her house is still intact, she sleeps in the High School-turned-evacuation center to feel secure.
Carla and Miriam are part of the children’s group consulted by Save the Children.
Pambid said most of the children are worried about food, shelter and security because their parents and guardians have recently lost income and livelihood opportunities due to quarantine.
Most of the children were stressed because they were discriminated by other neighbors and they were traumatized because the fire happened again after five years according to the results of the consultation.
Children are feeling down because they have to start from scratch and re-build their houses, said Pambid.
Pambid said displaced families also do not have access to life-saving health services including maternal and child health care services, and program on the management of children with moderate or severe malnutrition.
The families have started rebuilding their homes from salvaged materials and tarpaulins that can be used as temporary shelters, and protection from sun and rain.
When asked what she needs to feel safe and secured, Carla, said: “a safe home, where we have food, water, and clothing.”