Finding support through strong friendships after the typhoon

By Nichola Jones, IFRC, in Tacloban

Julie-Ann Benedict, Julius Steven and Valerie Jean have known each other as long as they can remember – they have played together, gone to school together, and shared birthdays. Last Friday, they braved Typhoon Haiyan together.

Now, the three teenage friends spend their days trying to find food and water for their families in Tacloban and supporting each other as they come to terms with what has happened.

Julie-Ann, 15, said: “Our three houses are next to each other so we are always together. We are thankful that we are all okay and that our families are okay. All our houses are damaged but at least we have somewhere to sleep.”

When the category 5 storm lashed the city in northern Leyte, the three youngsters took shelter with their parents and siblings and braced themselves for the worst.

“When the storm had passed and we saw what happened, we were shocked,” said 14-year-old Julius. “No one knew what to do next. They still don’t know but they are trying to get by.”

On Tuesday, the friends had walked several kilometres from their homes in the city towards the airport in the hope of finding water. After hours of struggling through the chaos of debris, pockets of flooding and crowds of other people trying to salvage what they can from the wreckage left behind by Haiyan, they found a thin pipe trickling water into a muddy hollow in the ground.

As the friends stop to fill bottles from the pipe, 18-year-old Valerie said: “We don’t know where this water is coming from. I hope it won’t make us sick, but we don’t have any choice.”

Philippine Red Cross health programme manager, Ryan Jopia, said that clean water was a priority for everyone in the area. “We are setting up water bladders, tankers and purification system in Tacloban and the other affected areas in northern Leyte as the shortage of drinking water is a very serious concern,” he said.

The International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies is running an appeal to help millions of people affected by the typhoon. In conjunction with the Philippine Red Cross, the appeal will bring emergency relief including food, water and shelter to those who saw their homes and livelihoods destroyed by the typhoon.