NGO assists in class resumption in calamity areas
Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) - November 14, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA,Philippines — International child welfare organization Save the Children Philippines will help the Department of Education (DepEd) set up temporary learning spaces in earthquake-hit areas in Mindanao in a bid to join the effort to resume classes and the normal lives of affected children.

Lawyer Albert Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said the resumption of classes is critical to address psychosocial stress of affected children because it re-establishes their routines.

“Keeping children safe inside learning spaces is critical in times of emergencies,” Muyot said in a statement.

“Children know that education gives them power to build a better future,” he added.

Initial figures from the DepEd showed that some 3.2 million school-age children have been affected by the series of earthquakes that hit four regions in Mindanao, including the war-torn Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as well as Davao and SOCCSKSARGEN regions, last month.

Out of the 3.2 million children, at least 1.6 million of them are from Davao, SOCCSKSARGEN and BARMM regions.

Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan earlier told the Star that the DepEd has already started the procurement process for the TLS it will put up in the quake-hit areas where classes will be held while the repair and replacement of the more than 2,000 classrooms that were totally destroyed or sustained major damage are undertaken.

Muyot said that Save the Children have their own TLS tents that they can provide to DepEd which he said are already ready for deployment once the DepEd identify the areas where they want these to be put up.

The group has already distributed family hygiene kits and plastic tarpaulins to ease the suffering of children and their families affected by the series of strong earthquakes in Mindanao.

A total of 1,051 family hygiene kits and 130 plastic tarpaulins have been distributed to children and their families in the most affected towns of Makilala and Magpet in North Cotabato to protect them from contagious diseases while in cramped evacuation centers and temporary shelters and makeshift tents outside their damaged houses.

Jerome Balinton, humanitarian manager of Save the Children Philippines, said the three temblors have caused massive destruction and damage to houses, schools, roads and infrastructure and it may take years to complete rehabilitation of the damaged infrastructure. Latest report from DepEd as of Nov. 11 also show that 1,046 classrooms were totally damaged, while some 1,274 classrooms sustained major damage.

“But children cannot wait,” said Balinton. “The need for psychosocial support, shelter, water, hygiene and sanitation and the resumption of classes in safe learning environments is immediate and crucial to the recovery of children and their families.”

At the moment, more than 11,000 families remain in evacuation centers, with limited access to water and sanitation facilities. And with many schools being used as evacuation centers, children’s learning is also affected.  DepEd report also shows that there are 41 schools used as evacuation centers.

A total of 260,492 people were affected by the three strong earthquakes across Mindanao, with 23 dead. Of the affected population, over 103,000 individuals are in Makilala town.

“The numbers are expected to escalate as most of the affected families live in hard to reach areas,” said Balinton. (rainier allan ronda)                    


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