MANILA, Philippines – 10,000 women and girls of reproductive age in evacuation centers in Sendong-ravaged areas will be given “dignity kits‟ for six months.
Dignity kits which are essentially hygiene kits contain a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, sanitary napkins and the like. The provision of these items is part of an integrated and coordinated humanitarian action plan for Mindanao being implemented by the United Nations mission in the Philippines, aid agencies, non-government organizations and the government.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) introduced the distribution of the hygiene packages in 2000 in response to the Sierra Leone and Liberia conflicts to enhance the mobility, comfort and dignity of women living in refugee camps.
Recovery of health services
The humanitarian action in Mindanao is now gearing up to restore the health system and services in the next 6 months. According to authorities, 14 out of the 102 health facilities in barangays outside Cagayan de Oro and Iligan were either damaged or are deficient in basic supplies, medicine, and equipment.
The health component of the humanitarian assistance package requires $2,272,657 (P96,542,468.32) to ensure the access of affected populations to basic preventive, promotive and curative health services that include mental health and psycho-social services. This is also meant to prevent maternal mortality, morbidity, and teenage/early pregnancy.
The Department of Health, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, aid agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, is leading the health cluster of the humanitarian response in typhoon-devastated Northern Mindanao.
Pregnant and lactating mothers
The specific medical and nutritional needs of 29,970 pregnant and lactating women (PLWs) in areas affected by Sendong have also been prioritized by the action plan to prevent maternal mortality, morbidity and early/teenage pregnancy. This will be carried out through reproductive health medical missions and other initiatives linked with the public health system.
PLWs comprise over 5% of the affected population. Of the pregnant women, nearly 40% are adolescents aged 15-19 years old, a recent age-specific profiling of pregnant women in evacuation centers revealed.
Essential reproductive health services, medicines and supplies will be provided in support of the implementation of the national maternal, newborn and child health and nutrition (MNCHN) program.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has taken steps to address gender specific concerns and needs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV). Female-headed households, adolescent girls, women with disabilities and elderly women are most vulnerable to gender discrimination, human trafficking and sexual violence, and exploitation.
An assessment of GBV camp safety conducted in 29 evacuation centers at the end of December 2011, showed that the absence of separate and secure latrines and bathing facilities, inadequate lighting, and lack of privacy and security provisions expose women and girls to violence.
About 50,000 women and girls are expected to participate in discussions on GBV prevention and response to be organized in evacuation centers, relocation sites and affected barangays.
However, the lack of sex and age disaggregated data for the affected population remains a limitation in addressing the serious and life-threatening nature of GBV.
Children of disaster
The humanitarian action plan also targeted 200,000 children, many of whom lost shelters and were displaced. About 15,000 children remain sheltered in evacuation and transitory sites. Many more are reported to be staying in either makeshift shelters or homes of host families.
The separation of children from their families was identified as the primary problem to date. This has exposed children to possible abuse, exploitation and trafficking. There had been related incidents that were reported.
Reports also revealed a 50% increase in child malnutrition in both Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities.
Assistance could hardly reach children in remote conflict areas which were also ravaged by Typhoon Sendong. As of January 2012, humanitarian response in affected areas has covered only 20% of the actual needs of under-5 children as well as PLWs. – Rappler.com
(Video credit: UNFPA Philippines)