Charis Barsoga lives with her husband and two young children in Pooc, Bantayan Island. Her family’s home and livelihood was wreaked when one of the most powerful storms ever barrelled into the sitio (hamlet) of Jemilina Han.
After watching a broadcast warning of the approaching tropical storm, Charis and her family evacuated to a village school – one of 1,425 emergency evacuation centres across the Philippines.
The category five storm – known internationally as Typhoon Haiyan – flattened her bamboo home, and damaged the 18ft fishing boat with which her husband earned a living.
Like all of the other families in the coastal hamlet, Charis and her husband, Ricardo, do not own the land upon which they lived. Although they do not have to pay rent, they are not allowed to build any permanent structures – including houses and even toilets.
“If we had been able to build stronger houses, Yolanda would have had less impact,” Charis told us as we visited Pooc, where we had distributed 344 tents. For Charis, the Islamic Relief tent is providing some comfort and shelter from the elements.
“Getting the tent has made a big difference, especially in the early days because the children are safe.”
Ricardo – who used to catch 6-8kg of fish to sell at the local market – has repaired his boat as much as he can. The motor is still working, but he still needs replacement parts and nets. He worries about the rising cost of fuel.
Many families in the area face similar challenges, as the storm wiped out livelihoods that depended upon the sea and the island’s once-thriving tourism industry. Now, the few boats that survive, net just two kilograms of fish on a good day.
The fruit trees which Charis used to supplement the family’s diet, are also gone. At least 80 per cent of the area’s trees are thought to be damaged, and no longer bear fruit. With less food available, prices have risen while incomes have dropped.
Families in the village area now face ruined homes and uncertain incomes. Only 40 per cent have access to sanitary facilities, leaving the community particularly vulnerable to water-borne diseases. Almost 60 per cent are forced to get their water from wells which need to be continually treated against dangerous bacteria, particularly E.coli.
Just two-months after the storm, the memory of Haiyan remains raw in Pooc, we learned from Charis – who told us that her daughters, six-year old Niño, and Stella, 4, are still afraid.
“The children are scared. Whenever there is wind they run to us and say ‘Mama, Mama, let’s go – Yolanda is coming.’”