Survivors from Itogon, Benguet: fears for the coming days

4-year old Shama won’t take her grip from her mother, 36-year old Geraldine. Around the small classroom where they are now taking refuge, she would grab her hand, give her a tight embrace and walk her through the school’s premises.

“She’s caring that way,” said Geraldine.  When typhoon Ompong (international name Mangkhut) started pummeling their village in Itogon, Benguet, all Shama wanted was to hold her mother’s hand and guide her up the mountains where they ran to safety.

“It was particularly hard for me because I am blind and pregnant. My whole body was freezing. When neighbors started ushering Shama to higher grounds, I assured her that we would see other soon.”

Geraldine’s husband at that time was part of a rescue team and was away from their village. Determined to protect her child in her womb and also Shama, Geraldine braved the more than 3-kilometre hike and another 30 minute-walk to the evacuation centre. Other people who were also fleeing the possible impact of Ompong worked together to keep her safe.

Fears for the coming days


While Geraldine is grateful that her family is safe, she worries about the coming days. Typhoon Ompong has left a devastating destruction in the North Luzon, affecting close to 1 million people as of September 18. This includes Benguet province with death toll of more than 30 people. Until today, retrieval operations are on-going and the government continues to reach other areas that are still isolated.

“Going up the mountain, we’ve been met by several landslides. I worry we can’t go back to our house. What if classes resume in the school? Where will we stay? How can we provide for our children,” she shared.

There are more than 100 families occupying high school and elementary schools in Itogon but number is expected to rise as people from the other parts of the town are being led to safety.

Meanwhile, Shama spends her days playing with other children in the evacuation site. From time to time, she would go inside the classroom, hold her mother’s hand and give her a hug.

“This is our worst experience so far and I hope people will help us,” ended Geraldine.

World Vision has started distributing relief items to hardest hit areas in Cagayan. In the coming days, families like Geraldine will also be receiving aid. The organisation is also concerned with the psychosocial well-being of children like Shama who had seen the brutal impact of the typhoon. World Vision is now gearing up for psychosocial interventions, including the setting up of child-friendly spaces where children will have a safe place to express themselves, to play and interact with other children. Long-term needs like shelter and livelihoods are also in the pipeline, in close coordination with local government units.

World Vision targets to reach 10,000 families or at least 50,000 people through the response.

Written by Joy Maluyo, World Vision/ September 18, 2018

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