Written by Ed Epp, Executive Director, cbm Canada
As Typhoon Haiyan tore through his coastal town on November 8, Manuelito had a terrible decision to make.
Too poor to afford a wheelchair for his eldest daughter, Manith, who has cerebral palsy, Manuelito was forced to leave her behind as he rushed his four younger children to an emergency shelter.
When he returned, Manuelito carried Manith, 21, two kilometres to safety.
“I was so afraid for her,” says Manuelito. “She was very heavy and the water was rising fast.”
Standing among the rubble of what was once his home, Manuelito struggles to hold back tears.
“Most of our belongings were washed away by the water,” he says quietly. The family lost almost everything — their house, their clothes and their belongings. But he is grateful his family is safe and alive – more than 5,600 people perished from the destructive typhoon.
Manuelito is among the 4.3 million people displaced by the typhoon, the strongest to ever hit the Philippines. More than 14 million people have been affected. Like most people with disabilities, Manith is extremely vulnerable during a disaster.
People with disabilities are the first to be left behind in emergency situations and often have difficulty accessing relief services. Most of the time, they must rely on family members or neighbours for safety and support.
Have you ever seen a person with crutches or in a wheelchair waiting in line for relief aid on the nightly news?
In the days following Typhoon Haiyan a phrase has been heard time and time again: “Wala iwanan.” It means “no-one is left behind.”
It’s to this end that cbm Canada’s emergency response unit has been working closely with its local partners and government authorities in Iloilo province to meet the needs of families living with the double challenge of poverty and disability.
cbm is distributing survival kits to 3,000 families like Manuelito’s in Concepcion – those families with a parent or child who has a disability, single-parent households, elderly people and those living in poverty.
When cbm found Manuelito, his sparse food and water supplies were quickly dwindling.
“We didn’t have much more food, so it was very helpful for us. The most important thing was receiving the rice.”¯
Along with food supplies, the survival kit includes tarps, mosquito nets, mats, blankets, personal hygiene items, flashlights and batteries.
For every person killed in a natural disaster, two to three will be left with post-traumatic stress or a physical injury that could cause a life-long disability.
More than 26,000 have been identified as being injured from the typhoon.
Six information points in the typhoon-affected province of Iloilo and Tacloban city are being set up by cbm to help give people with disabilities, as well as people injured in the typhoon, access to relief aid. They’ll also act as referral centers, connecting people with the medical and rehabilitative services they urgently need.
Plans are being laid to rebuild cbm’s partner schools & cooperative workshops damaged in the storm.
cbm is also laying the groundwork for developing model homes for Tacloban and Iloilo that are both accessible and safe, a model that other relief organizations can use as a guide.
As a member of the International Disability and Development Consortium and in cooperation with the International Disability Alliance, cbm is strongly advocating disability inclusion as a key element in the reconstruction and recovery phase in the Philippines.
cbm Canada is a non-profit, Christian, international development organization whose focus is on helping people who are struggling to survive the double disadvantage of poverty and disability. cbm’s goal is to break that cycle of poverty and disability.
cbm has helped more than 30 million people in its medical and rehabilitative work last year, and is recognized internationally for its life-transforming work in the poorest countries of the world for over 100 years.
cbm has been working in the Philippines for over 30 years and has 10 partner organizations that were located on or close to the typhoon path.
Photo credits: CBM