Senator Win Gatchalian urged the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs) to ensure that relief efforts in the aftermath of typhoons address the needs of affected children, including their safety from COVID-19.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), an estimated 724,000 children were affected in areas hit by super typhoon Rolly alone. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) also warned that the most affected children, including their families, are at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and other diseases because of crowding in evacuation centers.
The lawmaker emphasized the importance of implementing the Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children (CEPC), which was created under Republic Act No. 10821 or the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. Under the law, the CEPC should serve as the basis for handling disasters and other emergency situations to protect and support the immediate recovery of children, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers.
LGUs are also mandated to integrate the CEPC in their Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (LDRRM) plans and budget.
Part of the components of the CEPC is the establishment of child-friendly spaces in areas under a state of calamity. The program also mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to coordinate with the DSWD, LGUs, and civil society organizations (CSOs) to provide the health, medical, and nutritional needs of affected children, including psychosocial interventions.
Since the CEPC ensures immediate delivery of basic necessities and services to affected children such as food, water, medicines, and sanitary and hygiene kits, Gatchalian pointed out that public health supplies needed to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 such as face masks, alcohol, and sanitizers should also be distributed to children and their families.
While the CEPC also mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure the resumption of educational services for all children, Gatchalian also recommended that the agency should help in linking learners to the DOH, civil society organizations, and other professionals who could provide psychosocial interventions.
“Patuloy nating dapat tutukan ang pangangailangan at kaligtasan ng ating mga kabataan, lalo na iyong mga nawalan ng tahanan dahil sa hagupit ng magkakasunod na bagyo. Ngayong bumabangon tayo mula sa pinsalang dulot ng nagdaang mga kalamidad, nananatili rin ang ating tungkuling protektahan ang ating mga kababayan, kabilang ang ating mga kabataan, mula sa panganib ng COVID-19,” said Gatchalian.
In creating child-friendly spaces in times of emergencies, Gatchalian also reiterated the importance of having a permanent evacuation center in every city and municipality which the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture said would avoid the use of classrooms as temporary shelters and delays in the resumption of classes.
Last year, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill No. 747, which aims to construct a permanent evacuation center in every city and municipality.