124,000 kids already displaced by Taal eruption — child advocate group
MANILA, Philippines – Around 124,000 children have been displaced by the Taal Volcano’s eruption, child advocate group Save the Children said.
The group said in a statement on Thursday that the numbers are expected to rise further, with more towns being evacuated in anticipation of another eruption.
“At least 300,000 people have been evacuated or displaced by the Taal volcano since Sunday, nearly half of them children, and we expect that number to rise,” Save the Children Philippines humanitarian manager Jerome Balinton said.
“Entire towns and villages within the ‘danger zone’ have been abandoned and covered in hazardous volcanic ash,” he added. “With the volcano island now declared a ‘no-man’s land’ by President Rodrigo Duterte, some 1,000 people who call it home may never be able to return.”
The group also speculated that according to their rapid assessment, the government may have unwittingly underreported the number of displaced people, as they may have only counted heads in evacuation centers and not those who retreated to their friends and relatives.
Reports from the Batangas government’s Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office showed that 26,294 families or 121,455 individuals have been affected by the eruption, and that 373 evacuation centers have been set up.
“Gov’t is reporting that nearly 50,000 displaced. Only those in the evac centers are being recorded, not those staying with friends or relatives, so there may be underreporting,” the group’s rapid assessment results said.
In addition to this, the number of displaced children were not only from those who evacuated, but also children whose towns served as hosts for the evacuees.
Save the Children also said that after visiting five evacuation centers, they saw an emerging need for areas where children could still gain alternative learning, as most kids fear missing out on school.
“The children we’ve spoken to tell us that missing out on school is their biggest concern. Save the Children is setting up two Child-Friendly Spaces in the affected areas staffed by childcare professionals, where children can learn and play while receiving emotional support to help them cope with their distress,” Balinton said.
“We will also begin distributing sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets and other vital household items to displaced families,” the group added.
Taal Volcano erupted last Sunday afternoon, sending ash towards several towns in Batangas, Cavite, and as far as Metro Manila and Central Luzon.
Due to the volcano’s activity, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology declared Alert Level 4, forcing residents within the 14 kilometer danger zone to evacuate.
In recent days, Taal Volcano’s activity has mellowed down, but experts warn that a hazardous eruption is still possible, given the number of earthquakes and fissures that were recorded.
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