KEEPING THE SCHOOL CLEAN

On May 23, 2017, conflict broke out in Marawi City between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. This led to a 5-month siege that destroyed most of the city’s central commercial district and forced 350,000 people to evacuate their homes. 5% of the evacuees stayed in evacuation centers while 95% choose to stay with relatives and friends in nearby communities.

The host communities where the evacuees stayed were caught unprepared with the massive influx of people. Food, health, water, sanitation and other basic services for the displaced population were severely compromised. Action Against Hunger personnel were on the ground two days after the conflict started to assess the situation and determine the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population. Emergency Response projects in Food & Nutrition, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods, and Shelter started on June 1, 2017 and continues to this day.

These are the voices of the people who endured the Siege of Marawi through resilience and determination.

 

Built in 1965 for the education of children of farming families from the remote areas of Pantao Ragat, the Aloon Elementary School’s problems on water, sanitation and hygiene were as old as the school.

Norphia M. Ombawa, 33, was a student from the school and now teaches there.  She observed that her pupils are experiencing the same situation she had as an elementary student before. There were no water facilities in the campus because the water tank for rainwater storage was already rotting in rust with age.  They were using plastic containers to catch water when it rains. During the dry season, they had to fetch water from a spring which was a distance from their school.

“Our toilet which was made of wood collapsed a few years back so we didn’t have one to use. Our pupils would go under the trees at the back of the school to urinate and sometimes, to defecate”, she said.

With the line of trees just a few meters from their classroom, sometimes the smell of feces would go through their windows and distract their classes. Some of her pupils would also smell bad throughout the day because of being improperly washed. She worried that their exposure to germs would get them sick.

The local government responded to the water concern by connecting the school’s pipes to the water storage facility in the Mosque across the street.  But, the lack of a toilet for the students to use was still a problem and open defecation continued.

This situation became more difficult when several families displaced due to the Marawi Conflict took refuge in their village on May 2017. The number of pupils spiked up with children from the displaced population enrolling at the school.  They went back to having less water, if none at all because the Mosque’s water tank was also shared with the refugees.

So when the Action Against Hunger tracked the displacement of children in the village, they also heard the concerns of the teachers on the school’s lack of toilet and their own water access facilities.

Action Against Hunger’s mobile team was already working in the area answering the needs of the displaced population and got word of the school’s concern. With the funding from the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund, the organization built a tap stand for handwashing, tooth brushing and drinking water. A two-door concrete toilet was also constructed within the school grounds.

Action Against Hunger personnel held a series of hygiene promotion sessions to the students, teaching them the importance of proper sanitation & hygiene to avoid the spread of diseases.  These sessions also trained them on the proper way to hand wash and brush their teeth. After these sessions, each student was given a hygiene kit that contained soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste and towels that they could use every day in school and at home.

Norphia integrated the messages and techniques from these sessions in her classes and continues to remind them about the importance of being clean and keeping the surroundings clean as well.

“They became conscious on their hygiene and the cleanliness of the school. Their parents also told me that they brought this practice at home”, she shared.  ●

VINTA’S AFTERMARTH

The rain brought by tropical storm Vinta started to trickle over the village of Lininding in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur on the morning of December 23, 2017. Casan Panggaga, 41, hurried to get the rice grains that he laid to dry outside their house. It was when he was putting them in a sack that he heard the sound of heavy rain and raging water coming from a distance.

“I turned around and saw the water from the farthest part of the river swelled and was rushing towards our village. I ran back to the house while shouting for my wife to get the children out,” Casan shared.

He, his wife and two children took to the hills just as the water swallowed some of the houses along the riverside. From their elevated area, they saw their house slowly being uprooted by the strong currents until it finally drifted downstream towards the river. All of their belongings were swept away including the sacks of rice they recently harvested. Water overflowed from the dikes and filled their rice fields.

When the rain and the flood subsided, Casan saw the damage the typhoon caused to his livelihood: eroded sand, soil, rocks and debris buried the dikes and rice fields.

“It would take months of hard work to make it suitable for farming again. But I couldn’t start working because all my tools were lost to the flood,” he said.

Farming was not only his source of income, it also provided them their daily sustenance. All the harvested rice that would get them through the planting season was gone. They mostly relied on relief from the government during the aftermath of the tragedy.

Action Against Hunger mobile teams were on the ground conducting an assessment of the needs of the population affected by the typhoon within 24 hours.  With funding support from START FUND, the organization assisted Casan and other families from his community through the distribution of Temporary Shelter Kits for use in repairing and even rebuilding their houses. A kit contains construction materials for temporary shelter: tarpaulin, tie wire, rope, and nails.  It also comes along with construction tools: a hammer, a shovel & a saw.

Immediately after rebuilding their house, Casan and his son worked on their farm using the shovels to dig up and clear the mud from the rice fields. As soon as the mud is cleared, they will be working with other farmers to rebuild the dikes so that they could get water flowing from the river to their fields.

“We still need new plows to prepare the soil for planting. But, it’s not too difficult to start farming again because we have new tools now”, he shared.●

NORTH COTABATO LEVEL UP IN ZOD

COTABATO CITY– Seven municipalities in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato are declared as Zero Open Defecation (ZOD) in January 15, 2018.

The municipalities of Arakan, President Roxas, Paglat, South Upi, Upi, General Salipada K. Pendatun, and Datu Abdullah Sangki are declared as ZOD because 100% of the households in each of its barangays now have access to sanitary toilets, clean water and soap for hand washing. All of the barangays in each municipalities contributed to the total of 184 barangays in Maguindanao and North Cotabato earlier declared as open-defecation free.

“The ZOD declaration is one of the greatest achievements we’ve ever had. For us health workers, it is one of the greatest contributions we can offer to decrease communicable diseases, diarrhea cases and other environmental sanitation problems,” said Rebecca Tenorio who serves as a nurse in the Rural Health Unit of South Upi, Maguindanao for 14 years.

The ZOD program is one of the flagship programs of the Department of Health that aims to declare the entire Philippines as ZOD in 2022. Action Against Hunger has been supporting the implementation of the ZOD program since 2012 through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)-funded project called Scaling up Sustainable and Resilient Basic Sanitation, Safe Water, and Improved Hygiene Behaviour.

The project aims to deliver clean water and improve practices on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene to households, schools and day care centers that make use of the Community Led Total Sanitation, a participatory strategy that facilitates the community’s desire to stop open defecation. The campaign has been gathering households and using “shock, shame, and disgust” to raise awareness on the negative effects of open defecation, especially among children, and create a demand for hygienic toilet facilities. “Action Against Hunger and UNICEF gave us confidence in advocating our campaign with the knowledge and learning they imparted to us. Truly, we believe we can do it on our own way,” added Tenorio.

As of writing, Action Against Hunger continues stop open defecation in more barangays within Maguindanao and North Cotabato to achieve 100% ZOD. ●

A FRESH START

On May 23, 2017, conflict broke out in Marawi City between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. This led to a 5-month siege that destroyed most of the city’s central commercial district and forced 350,000 people to evacuate their homes. 5% of the evacuees stayed in evacuation centers while 95% choose to stay with relatives and friends in nearby communities.

The host communities where the evacuees stayed were caught unprepared with the massive influx of people. Food, health, water, sanitation and other basic services for the displaced population were severely compromised. Action Against Hunger personnel were on the ground two days after the conflict started to assess the situation and determine the urgent humaniarian needs of the affected population. Emergency Response projects in Food & Nutrition, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods, and Shelter started on June 1, 2017 and continues to this day.

 

These are the voices of the people who endured the Siege of Marawi through resilience and determination.

On May 24, 2017, the morning after the conflict started in Marawi City, Noraida Ombar and her family left their home in Brgy. Lilod Madaya. With no means of transportation, she, her husband, and her 11 children walked for more than two hours to Brgy. Alinun, Saguiaran where her brother waited.

“My children almost fainted because of the heat and the exhaustion. We were so scared that we didn’t notice how hungry we were until we arrived here,” she said.

Her brother Macalayo welcomed them to his house where other displaced relatives also took refuge. She noticed that the sack of rice her brother gave to all the visitors was soon empty as more displaced relatives came in the succeeding days.

Knowing that their hosts also have their own families’ needs to take care of, she and her family relied mostly on the food aid that the government and other humanitarian organizations were giving.

However, the distance of Brgy. Alinun from the town center made delivery of the food aid inconsistent.  And when government food aid did come, it was not enough for her large family. The week’s supply of food only lasted for a few days.

This food insufficiency was noted by the Action Against Hunger mobile team when they passed Brgy Alinunin on September 2017.  The organization was doing an assessment of the needs of the displaced families who choose not to live in evacuation centers.  According to data from UNOCHA, 94% of the 360,000 people who were forced to flee opted to stay with relatives.

With funding from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Action Against Hunger distributed food aid kits enough for a month’s food supply for each family in the Barangay.  When Noraida opened her family’s kit, she was pleased to find dried fish, eggs, cooking oil, biscuits, mung beans, fruits and vegetables.

“We had been eating so much canned food that having fresh food we can cook was a relief for us,”, she said

The first meal that she cooked and shared with her family reminded her how good wholesome fresh and nutritious food was for them.  Before long, she and her husband were cultivating rice substitutes like cassava, taro and sweet potatoes on a patch of land that her brother lent them.  However, backyard farming with only a few tools they borrowed from their new neighbors was tedious.

Action Against Hunger engineers were building a communal toilet and installing a water reservoir in her community at this time.  Noraida asked if she could have the construction tools to use for farming once construction was done.  When the structures were completed, they gave her a shovel, a rake, a trowel, shears, a hoe, gloves and a wheelbarrow.

Farming was more efficient with these tools, so much so that Noraida added more variety and planted tomatoes, spring onions, okra, eggplant, bell peppers and other vegetables.

“We can’t go on relying on food aid or be a burden to our relatives. At least, with this garden, we could grow some nutritious food for our everyday consumption,”, she said.

When they harvested some of their crops for the first time, their fellow refugees were encouraged to follow their example.  Noraida lent them the tools and they also started their own backyard farms. They are now planning to ask the barangay to use some of the idle lands to start a communal vegetable garden●

A MOTHER’S MILK

On May 23, 2017, conflict broke out in Marawi City between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. This led to a 5-month siege that destroyed most of the city’s central commercial district and forced 350,000 people to evacuate their homes. 5% of the evacuees stayed in evacuation centers while 95% choose to stay with relatives and friends in nearby communities.

The host communities where the evacuees stayed were caught unprepared with the massive influx of people. Food, health, water, sanitation and other basic services for the displaced population were severely compromised. Action Against Hunger personnel were on the ground two days after the conflict started to assess the situation and determine the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population. Emergency Response projects in Food & Nutrition, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods, and Shelter started on June 1, 2017 and continues to this day.

These are the voices of the people who endured the Siege of Marawi through resilience and determination.

 

Idalia Beruar, 33, nursed her 2-month old daughter Queenie while her husband Ibrahim fed their two boys in one of the makeshift living quarters at the gymnasium-turned-evacuation center in Barangay Sta. Elena, Iligan City. After all they had been through, she was glad that all four of them were alive and well.

She was four months pregnant when they fled the armed conflict from Marawi City. They took the route which passed through the forest because gunshots were heard from the highways. The road was rough with rocks and slippery with mud. It took them hours to trek it with one child on her husband’s back and the other one on his arms. The heat and the tedious hike soon made them thirsty. Having brought no water with them, they resorted to drinking from any water source they could find along the path.

It was when they were walking through the municipality of Tagoloan when their 2-year old son Delmar got sick. “He was so pale and he kept on throwing up and had loose bowels. We stopped a car and asked the owner to take us to a hospital because I feared that our son might not last the journey,” she said.

At the Iligan City hospital, the doctor who attended to Delmar saved him from severe dehydration. He was discharged a few days later and joined his family at the evacuation center where they found a space to live in. The experience made Idalia careful on what her children ate and drank.

Fortunately, their first month in the evacuation center fell on the celebration of the holy Ramadan. Cooked food and purified drinking water were donated by their fellow Muslims who were not displaced by the armed conflict.

After that month, they relied mainly on the relief goods from government agencies and other organizations responding to the crisis. However, the food donations were mostly canned goods and instant noodles. Idalia was concerned that, with her being pregnant and her children still less than five years old, they were not getting the right nutrition they needed.

“I suffered from urinary tract infection. Maybe it was because of too much salt intake from the canned goods. My children also got thinner as the days went by,” she shared.

Starting September 2017, Action Against Hunger, with support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), brought food aid kits for pregnant women, lactating mothers and families with children aged less than five years old. Idalia remembered the sack of good quality rice, mung beans, dried fish, fruits and vegetables included among the many items in the food aid kit they received.

“I cooked the mung beans with the dried fish and moringa leaves. My children ate it well with the delicious rice they gave us,” she shared.

She and other pregnant women and lactating mothers were also encouraged by Action Against Hunger personnel to attend a seminar on breastfeeding and infant and children care practices funded by the Spanish Cooperation for International Development (AECID). Idalia pointed out that she had always breastfed her children because they did not like the formula she prepared for them. But in the seminar, she learned that breastmilk is still the most nutritious food for the baby. She and her co-participants were also taught to massage their breasts to produce more milk when the baby is suckling from them.

“I was amazed also that the mothers who trained us brought their babies to the seminar, breastfed them, bathe them and changed their diapers for all of us to see,” Idalia said.

When she delivered her baby Princess on November 2, 2017, Idalia applied what she learned in the seminar and breastfed her baby. She also made it a habit to hydrate with water and vegetable soup. She also maintained taking ferrous sulfate and Vitamin A to keep herself strong and healthy. Today, at two months, Princess weighs six kilos and is always at her mother’s side.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority were conducting skills training for livelihood at the evacuation center Idalia’s family was situated.  Even though she was taking care of two boys and a newborn, Idalia grabbed the opportunity to sign-up for these courses for livelihood opportunities while they were indefinitely staying at the evacuation center.  Having seen the mothers who trained them during the child-care seminar bringing their babies while working, she brought Princess along with her when she attended the training classes.

“At first, it was difficult because she’s already heavy. But I wanted her to nurse her any time she needed to.” ●

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

On May 23, 2017, conflict broke out in Marawi City between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and armed fighters from two ISIL-affiliated groups – Abu Sayyaf and the Maute. This led to a 5-month siege that destroyed most of the city’s central commercial district and forced 350,000 people to evacuate their homes. 5% of the evacuees stayed in evacuation centers while 95% choose to stay with relatives and friends in nearby communities.

The host communities where the evacuees stayed were caught unprepared with the massive influx of people. Food, health, water, sanitation and other basic services for the displaced population were severely compromised. Action Against Hunger personnel were on the ground two days after the conflict started to assess the situation and determine the urgent humaniarian needs of the affected population. Emergency Response projects in Food & Nutrition, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods, and Shelter started on June 1, 2017 and continues to this day.

These are the voices of the people who endured the Siege of Marawi through resilience and determination.

 

The village of Paling in Piagapo, Lanao del Sur was among one of the communities where hundreds of people displaced due to the Marawi Conflict sought refuge. Being one of the poorest in the municipality, its local government headed by Barangay Chairman Dimalumping Matanog was caught unprepared to address the problems that came with hosting the displaced families. “They needed help and it is in our culture as Maranaos to come together as a village to help them in their time of need,” Chairman Matanog said.

However, their distance from the town center hindered the delivery of relief goods when they were badly needed. Evacuees who chose to stay with their relatives than in the evacuation centers felt left out from receiving aid. They soon became weak with hunger and sick with diarrhea.

“Our water here was contaminated and we already had problems with diarrhea amongst the residents, even before the arrival of the bakwits (evacuees). The nearest health center is 2 KM from

here,” he said.

Action Against Hunger Team assessed the situation and found out that the swell in population exacerbated a fragile sanitation infrastructure: the well where the community sourced its water needed to be rehabilitated; only a few households had their own toilets, and if they did, these were open pit latrines that could possibly contaminate the groundwater. The lack of toilets meant that a lot of people defecated in the open – a practice that would easily spread diseases.

With funding from the European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO), Action Against Hunger launched a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) project to address the concerns of the host community and the evacuees.

Action Against Hunger WASH Engineers launched the project by rehabilitating the community’s exposed water source and covering it

to stop contamination. The engineers trained the barangay officials proper maintenance of the water source to ensure the availability of clean water for the residents.

Paling is a rural barangay composed of sitios that are far from the village center with consultation with the barangay officials, the engineers identified 3 areas where a 2-door toilet facility with a water tap stand and its own water reservoir would be built. Having these WASH facilities in several areas would make access more convenient for the community.

As their counterpart in the project, the barangay officials organized a group from the residents and the evacuees to provide labor. Guided by Action Against Hunger WASH Engineers, the laborers finished construction on March 6, 2018.

One WASH facility was built near the village’s mosque. “The worshippers would use the water from the tap stands for their

ablution,” Chairman Matanog Said “We also have events here in the barangay and many people who attend could now use the toilets. Families whose house are nearby that don’t have toilets could now use what we built. Even transients who passed by our roads could use the toilet or drink from our tap stand.”

An important component of the project was promoting good hygiene and sanitation practices in the community. “There is this concept of Positive Deviance that aims for behavioral changes within the community,“ WASH Project head Samera Monib explains “We do this by identifying and recruiting individuals – mothers, fathers or any members of the community who has expressed understanding and commitment to change the WASH situation in their respective communities – and have them pass on their good practices to other families. They were actively participating in their community activities and were recommended by the Barangay Leaders and the Rural Health Unit. We call them Community Health Promoters and give them training on WASH participatory approach on hygiene promotion.”

Junaidah Matanog, one of the twelve Community Health Promoters, was encouraged to volunteer because she saw how some of the children in the village became vulnerable to skin diseases, diarrhea and even dengue due to poor hygiene. “We try to promote these to our neighbors but in casual conversations only so that it doesn’t come as offensive to them. Most of the volunteers are young mothers so it gets awkward for us to lecture older people,” she said.

She and her fellow health promoters taught the children to make proper hygiene a habit. They coached the children on the proper way to wash their hands, brush their teeth, and cut their fingernails. They also instructed them to bathe regularly. In addition, the promoters also spearheaded clean-up drives involving the whole community to prevent mosquito production that could spread bacteria. ●

Typhoon Yolanda Emergency Response strengthens humanitarian support following oil spill in Estancia, Iloilo

The huge oil spill from a wrecked barge in the shoreline of Estancia, Iloilo after Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) poses health risks to disaster survivors.

ACF International is in Estancia and San Dionisio in the province of Iloilo and the towns of Pilar, Pontevedra, Batad and Concepcion in the province of Capiz, building latrines and installing water storage units (water bladder) for the disaster survivors.

After the first phase of emergency response across typhoon-ravaged areas in Leyte, Panay, and Samar islands, ACF will work on rehabilitating water networks, protecting livelihoods such as rice farming, and recovering productive resources.

Funds are still urgently needed. Together with other NGOs, UN agencies, and the international community, ACF is encouraging citizens and corporations to make donations without delay.

Photos by Lucile Grosjean for ACF International