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UNICEF Recovery Efforts Still Strong in Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan

UNITED NATIONS, May 20 2014 (IPS) - In the aftermath of the deadly Typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines in November of 2013, recovery efforts are slowly making themselves visible—a feat that the Children’s Rights & Relief Organisation (UNICEF) has been pushing for.

“UNICEF was on the ground within the first days, as soon as it was possible to get into the typhoon area” Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Country Representative in the Philippines told IPS via email, adding, “there were formidable challenges of access, with debris, including tens of thousands coconut trees blocking roads and airports.

UNICEF’s first priority was to save lives and to provide lifesaving assistance as soon as possible, with a special concern for children, who are obviously very vulnerable after a natural disaster like Haiyan.”

Despite debris, limited access and even support, UNICEF worked to bring relief to the 14 million people affected by the typhoon—nine million of whom are children.

The organization also has reportedly assisted in bringing children back to school, providing vaccines and purifying water. In the past six months over 80,000 children have been immunized and over one million people have had access to clean drinking water.

“As a first point we focused on getting the water supply in Tacloban and nearby areas up and running,” said Sylwander.

She also noted that UNICEF restored water for approximately 100,000 citizens of Tacloban.

The aftermath of the Typhoon unfortunately left its greatest impact on children—many of them having lost family members or separated from primary care givers.

“Children were in immediate need of food, safe water, shelter and a place to live, health care, safety and protection.” Slywander said, emphasizing that after such trauma, children needed to return to some sort of normalcy—much of which included education.

And as with any disaster situation, recovery efforts for children quickly turned to the protection and safety in the face of trafficking and exploitation.

According to Slywander, trafficking has been recognized as a pre-existing issue in the central parts of the Philippines, dramatically increasing concern after the typhoon hit.

“While there have been substantial media attention around the potential for an increased risk of trafficking in the immediate aftermath of the typhoon, UNICEF has not found a significant increase in incidence of trafficking as a result of the typhoon,” she added.

Having signed agreements with over 40 municipalities, or Local Government Units (LGU) in the Philippines post typhoon, UNICEF hopes to continue its relief efforts in Haiyan. With a joint work plan between the two entities, interventions including child protection, health, education, nutrition, monitoring and governance are to be addressed in order to try an ensure resilience and preparedness in the face of future disasters.

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