Philippines (MNN) — Horror stories are beginning to pour out of the Philippines.
“I’ve seen dead people on the streets and the sidewalks,” a nine-year old girl tells CNN. “It made me feel scared.”
At the same time, more relief aid is being poured in. According to a recent report from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN and U.S. are sending $25 million and $20 million, respectively.
Despite the increased aid effort, many survivors still badly need food, water, and shelter, said Sally Ababa from Operation Mobilization. To date, three waves of relief goods have been distributed to 850 families in Bohol and the Northern part of Cebu, where many OM staff members reside.
An Emergency Operation Center has been set up at the OM Philippines (OMP) office in Cebu City. All cash and in-kind donations are being channeled through OMP for receipting and distribution purposes.
Two teams have been formed to distribute relief goods in Bohol and Northern Cebu. Another team is based in Cebu City to assess OM Philippines-Cebu’s outreach to children and partner churches affected by the typhoon. Debriefing of staff and children is ongoing, and preparations for trauma counseling training in 10 areas affected by the earthquake and typhoon are underway.
OM’s Elaine Ellis shares a special concern for Cebu’s slum dwellers. These are families living on an average of less than $35USD each day.
“Just to survive the horrendous inconveniences of the storm has to be a huge challenge for them,” she says. “These slum areas have no running water in the homes, they have no sewers.”
According to a 2011 study from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), over 5 million Filipinos live in urban slums, or slums located in major metropolitan cities. A large percentage of those communities are located in coastal and low-lying areas, where vulnerability to flooding is highest
“When it rains, even normally, these homes are flooded several feet,” Ellis explains. After Haiyan, the damage is even more extensive.
“With everyone focused on the worst areas, there’s always a concern that people who are on the fringe may go over the edge.”
Ellis works closely with OMP Cebu’s scholarship program, which shares the Gospel and provides hope for a future to some 114 slum kids.
“We have three levels of scholarships,” Ellis says. “We have a complete scholarship that includes tuition, uniforms, school supplies, and a living allowance. Then we have a second level that is everything except the allowance.”
“The third level is for special project needs, like children that need a calculator for high school.”
The majority of OM scholars are safe and sound. However, Ellis says, the status of two remains a mystery.
“These are children who were part of our program in past years, and I have not heard if they’ve been able to locate them,” she states.
Pray for the safety of these children. Pray they will be found soon.
Along with the scholarship program, OMP Cebu trains selected children in a three-month intensive course called Junior Leaders’ Training. Kids are expected to assist volunteer teachers and soon be teachers themselves after completing the course. Bible class is held regularly on weekends, and OMP Cebu holds a Vacation Bible School each summer.
“The projects OM is providing is helping [to keep] their lives cohesive,” says Ellis.
In the coming days, Haiyan survivors in the Philippines will increasingly need your prayers. The bodies of storm victims are still in the streets and along alleyways. As they break down, the risk of disease increases.
Children are especially vulnerable to infectious diseases. Ask the Lord to keep them safe and healthy. Pray for the protection of OM relief workers and their families.
Ellis shares a quote from OM’s International Director, Lawrence Tong: “The One we serve is much bigger than any typhoon or earthquake, and we need to cry out to Him on behalf of the thousands who have lost homes and loved ones.”