NORTHERN SAMAR, Philippines – “An akon kaniring kay mawawara an akon anak (I was trembling and afraid that I may lose my baby).” Two months have passed, but a 30-year-old Cris Puaso from Barangay Calarayan in Allen still remembers the anxiety and fear that she felt on the night of 1 December 2019 when the devastating Typhoon Tisoy (Kammuri) lashed with strong winds and heavy rains her coastal barangay.
Cris was four-month pregnant. And she had bleeding. “Kinulba ngan ginkurog ako kay gindugo ako sadto nga gin-bagyo kami. Didto kami nilikas kanda nanay balay upod an akon asawa ngan mga anak. Maupay nala, kay pagbalik namon kinabuwasan, nahulugan na san puno sin lubi an amon balay.” (I had bleeding the night the typhoon hit us. My husband and I had to bring my children to my mother’s place. Good thing we left our house because when we returned home, a coconut tree had fallen unto it)
The underserved, in already poor provinces, hit more severely
Northern Samar was already among the poorest provinces in the Philippines, prior to the typhoon, according to the National Anti-Poverty Commission. Unfortunately, more than 300,000 people in Northern Samar were affected as Typhoon Tisoy wreaked havoc in the province, killing four and injuring 73 more across the province. The Northern Samar Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) reported that 10,023 houses were totally damaged, while 111,991 were partially damaged, by the typhoon. Most of the damaged houses were made of light materials
Disasters like this typhoon, however, do not stop women from getting pregnant or delivering babies. In the Northern Samar Province alone, it is estimated that there are close to 4,600 pregnant women among the affected. More than 500 live deliveries are expected each month, and all of these women and babies need access to safe and clean delivery services despite the natural disaster. Normally in times of calamities, provision of social services is disrupted including for reproductive health, which increases the risk of pregnancy and childbirth-related complications and maternal deaths and morbidities. Typhoon Tisoy was not an exception, as it affected the already stretched workload of the local health workers tasked to provide services to pregnant and lactating women, as well as made it difficult for those women to access health care facilities.
"Makuri ngan diri komportable it akon kamutangan yana kay nawakay an amon balay ngan burod pa ako." (My situation has been difficult because our house was totally damaged while I am pregnant.) Cris lamented.
Women, particularly pregnant and lactating women, have special needs
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines with the support from the Australian Government, in partnership with Northern Samar PSWDO and under guidance from the central Department of Health (DOH) Health Emergency Management Bureau, provided maternity packs and women’s hygiene kits to 900 pregnant and lactating women (PLW) in worst-hit municipalities of Allen and Laoang. These kits address the feminine hygiene needs of displaced women and PLW affected by natural disasters or conflicts and typically include sanitary pads, tissue, cotton, slippers, soap, blanket, underwear, etc. These are essential in preserving their confidence and self-esteem, which helps them in providing care and protection to their children and themselves even under emergency. Infection risk among PLW and infants is also reduced by promoting cleanliness.
Cris is among the hundreds of women who received support from UNFPA, which was made possible by assistance from the Australian Government. “Malipayon ako nga natagan kami sin bulig labi na, komportable na ako karon (I am happy that I was given assistance! I feel comfortable now),” said Cris.
Ms. Jenny Darish, head of the Northern Samar Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office stated, “the assistance provided to us is a great help and is instrumental in our recovery process especially for the pregnant and lactating women and their children.”
Mr Kim Ian Tiu
Reproductive Health Coordinator
United Nations Population Fund - Philippines