Typhoon Haiyan: Rebuilding lives, returning to school

Edegario, 12, points to where his house used to be.  Two broken wooden poles are all that is left.  His family is now living with his uncle, in the house next door, which was also heavily damaged.  The family repaired it as much as they could with tarpaulin, panel sheets, whatever they could find out of the debris.

Edegario lives in Tacloban neighbourhood heavily affected by Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda).  Three months on, the neighbourhood still bears the signs of massive devastation.  At least most of the few metres high debris has been cleared.

A sixth grade student in Manlurip Primary School in Tacloban, Edegario’s favourite subjects are English, Math and Social Studies.

“There were a lot of trees around here that got uprooted.  As you can see, only a few are standing,” said Edegario, “our school was beautiful with a lot of flowers and greenery.  We used to stay late after school to play volleyball and Tumbang Preso.”  Tumbang Preso is a traditional Filipino children’s game where you throw your sandals trying to hit a can.

He and his friends now go home before it gets dark; electricity is scarce in the area.

“Our classroom was destroyed with most parts of the school,” added Edegario. Classes are now held in a UNICEF tent and they use learning supplies provided by UNICEF.  Since reopening, classes run from Monday to Saturday to help children catch up on the missed lessons.

Shocked as much as they are with the loss of home and livelihood, the family is grateful to have survived and for being together, the parents and three boys.


Venus, grade 8, washes her hands after using the latrines at her school.
© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Pirozzi


After the typhoon hit and the storm surge completely destroyed their house, the family managed to reach the airport where they waited for three days and nights to find a space on a Korean military C130 plane to evacuate from the disaster zone.  “We had not had anything to eat for three days”, he recalls and they had to be in the waiting cue even at night, “It was my first time on a plane”, tells Edegario. “It was crowded, I felt dizzy.”

In Manila, they found shelter with Edegario’s grandmother. Community members offered them food and drink for the typhoon survivors, the priest also took care of them.  But there was no work for his father and older brother, so they decided return to Tacloban.

“We received 4,500 Pesos from the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) to return to Tacloban. But fares were expensive. Fortunately the youngest boy Edmond got a free ride,” said the father, Edegario Sr. “Now I want to rebuild the house but I don’t have money to buy some wood.” His Pedicab, a typical Filipino bicycle taxi that brought him modest, hard-earned income, is destroyed.  The only remaining source of income for the family is a small rice field that he cultivates.

The family still relies on relief goods. “I haven’t eaten meat or pork since Yolanda”, related Edegario, “only canned goods and some vegetables.” A student-feeding programme started this week, “Today we had porridge and egg.”


Edegario’s wooden post is all that remains from their former home.
© UNICEF Philippines/2014/Reyna


Like hundreds and thousands of affected families, three months down from the devastating Typhoon Haiyan on 8 November, has changed their life forever, Edegario’s family continues to struggle to get back on their feet.  At least he is going back to school together with his 9-year old younger brother Edmond in third grade.  Edegario’s 21-year old brother Joel is a teacher and started to work again just a few days ago. With all the challenges they are facing, there is only one thing Edegario wishes for: “I wish are and will be safe.”

“UNICEF considers education integral to humanitarian response, we help bring children back to learning as quickly as possible” said Ms Angela Kearney, Representative , UNICEF Philippines, “Return to school is a joy for children. We need to make learning a really positive experience for children, for their families and for their communities.”

UNICEF supported some 427,000 children from the worst hit areas who are now back in school, in repaired, makeshift and tent schools and using learning materials from school-in-a-box, early childhood and recreational kits.  The back to school campaign will continue to expand focusing on the new school year, which begins in June 2014.

The authors
Gregor Henneka with Zafrin Chowdhury, Communication Specialists, UNICEF Philippines

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