Breastfeeding Yolanda babies: The soldier as proxy mom

Carmela Fonbuena

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A soldier, a new mother herself, offers to breastfeed newborns whose mothers are too weak at a makeshift hospital in Tacloban City

BREASTFEEDING SOLDIER: Corporal Anjannete Obligado

MANILA, Philippines – Corporal Anjannete Obligado only went to the makeshift hospital at the Tacloban airport to bring a woman who had passed out after hours of lining up for a seat in a C130 flight out of the city.

The next thing the lady soldier knew, she was breastfeeding babies of evacuees.

At the hospital, Obligado saw a bloodied woman lying down with her baby in a corner. The woman had just given birth. It was November 11, just 3 days after Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit the city.

Obligado, a new mom herself, approached the woman. “We talked and we cried together,” Obligado narrated to Rappler over the weekend.

She learned that the woman’s husband was working in Bacolod City and, at that time, didn’t know his wife had given birth.

One look at the woman’s baby and Obligado knew she had to help. She asked for permission to breastfeed the baby, and the mother couldn’t be more thankful. Hungry and thirsty, she had no milk for her newborn. 

The soldier mom fed two other babies after that. “The babies were pitiful,” she said.

Obligado thought about her 3-month-old baby Mary Olive, whom she had left in Manila so she could check on her in-laws in Tacloban.

She found their house damaged. Her in-laws were hungry but were otherwise okay. As soon as she had checked on them, she returned to the airport to catch a flight back to Manila.

Over 5M children affected


Over 5.4 million children were affected by monster typhoon Yolanda, according to the Unicef Humanitarian Action Children. Out of this number, nearly 800,000 were displaced. There are nearly 300,000 pregnant and lactating women in the devastated areas, too.


The Unicef HAC has made an appeal for $61.5 million to be able to attend to the needs of the children and women affected by the typhoon from November 2013 to May 2014.

VULNERABLE POPULATION: Over 5 million children were affected by typhoon Yolanda. Screenshot of Unicef report

Unicef is concerned about the health risks that children continue to face.


“The limited health services available due to damaged hospitals and health facilities, including cold chain equipment, increases the risk of acute respiratory disease, measles, cholera, and typhoid outbreaks among children. Partners are working on re-establishing the cold chain in Tacloban City as quickly as possible,” reads a Unicef November 15 situation report. –


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