GIRLS IN TENTS

Girls in Tents
By Angelo Hernan E. Melencio
May 19, 2012

Children, most especially girls, were the ones most affected by the floods caused by Washi. They continue to remain as IDPs until today and their parents are still unsure up to when they will stay in the evacuation camps.

A girl poses outside their tent from Plan and Irish Aid. Two families share each tent.

City dwellers always find pleasure in spending their weekends outdoors and sleeping in tents. There is no better escape from the busy city life but nature’s fresh air and warm sun. But can you imagine yourself camping for more than five months? Two girls in Iligan City, Lanao Del Norte tell their stories of living inside tents as internally displaced persons due to the floods caused by Tropical Storm Washi.

An hour before midnight of December 17, 2011, Michelle*, a 13 year old girl, woke up when a tree fell and shook their house. She looked outside and saw the flood was already knee-high. Her parents led her and her siblings to their neighbour’s roof, believing that they will be high enough not to be washed away by the raging waters. With them was a one month old baby boy.

A 12 year old girl named Danica*, on the other hand, was awaken and stirred by the sound of rolling rocks carried by the strong current of the floodwater. She and her family tried to swim to high ground but she got separated from her family. “I was swimming very hard and I got lost,” said Danica in Visayan dialect, “I couldn’t find my parents and siblings and I continued swimming. The current was very strong and I thought I will die.” Luckily, Danica was carried by the flood to a coconut tree. She was rescued by her uncle come morning of December 17. A barangay official claims that she was washed approximately 600 meters away from her home.

A girl and her mother pose inside their tent. The heat inside is unbearable during noontime.

The families of Michelle and Danica were both evacuated to a school in a village in Iligan City. A week after, nine tents from Irish Aid and Plan International were delivered and served as a temporary place for 18 families to stay to decongest the classrooms. A total of 400 tents were distributed by Plan to various evacuation camps in Cagayan De Oro City and Iligan City.

Families also received blankets, hygiene kits, and water kits from Plan International. Children in schools received school packs. Their parents also attended DRR and WASH Orientations facilitated by Plan International and local partners.

The children shared that life inside the tents was very hard. As girls, they do not have privacy and they find it difficult to change clothes. They share a communal comfort room which makes it hard for them when they experience their monthly menstrual cycles.

A tent from Plan and Irish Aid caught fire.

The place to sleep is very small that they have to lay together with their boy siblings and other male relatives. Rainwater penetrates through the thin tent sheets. It’s very hot inside the tents during daytime and noontime that they are forced to stay outside their tents. “The tents are just for sleeping,” said Corina*, Michelle’s mother, “It seems that the tents were not designed to be used for so long.”

On the second week of April, one of the tents burned due to the intense heat of the sun. Fortunately, no one was injured or killed.

The girls and their families are still residing in their tents until now. Their conditions continue to degrade as the days pass by and their parents are still unsure up to when they will stay in the evacuation camps.

*Not their real names.

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