Philippines

Taking care of mothers’ hygiene needs in evacuation centres

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It was around 10:00 p.m. last December 16 when nine months pregnant Eagil Bautista was roused from sleep by loud voices in her neighbourhood in Zone 7, Barangay Acacia, one of the villages affected in the recent flooding in Cagayan de Oro City in the Philippines.

To her surprise, her feet immersed in water when she got up from bed to find out what was going on. When she opened the door, flood water came surging in and, all of a sudden, the water inside their house was already waist-deep. Her husband was away at that moment but luckily, his sister and parents were around to help her out of the house.

“Pumunta kami sa kapitbahay na hindi pa binabaha yung bahay, pero inabot din ng tubig kaya lumipat kami sa covered court ng barangay (We sought refuge at the house of a neighbour but the floodwater eventually seeped in as well),” the 32-year-old Eagil narrated.

In the same neighbourhood lived Lindy Ocoras, 18, who is five months pregnant with her first child. She had to first ensure that her three younger siblings were on safer grounds before she and her husband escaped the fast-rising floodwater.

“Nahirapan ako tumakbo dahil sa kundisyon ko, mabuti na lang kasama ko ang asawa ko. Kumatok kami dun sa kapitbahay naming may malaking bahay na mataas, mabuti na lang pinapasok kami (I had difficulty running because of my condition, it was good my husband was around. A neighbor allowed us to seek temporary shelter in their big house),” Lindy said.

Eagil and Lindy were among the pregnant and lactating mothers temporarily sheltered at the West City Central School in Cagayan de Oro City who attended a mothers’ information session organized by the United Nations Population Fund, Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Health at the evacuation centre on December 29. The session taught the women the importance of maintaining hygiene while in the evacuation centre to protect them and their babies from disease and infection, thus preventing maternal and infant deaths.

Just like most of the evacuees, Eagil and Lindy were not able to save any belongings when they fled their houses. It was therefore a great relief when they received hygiene kits, also known as “dignity kits,” donated by the Australian Aid for International Development (AusAID) and the Spanish government humanitarian agency AECID through the UNFPA, after the information session.

The kits contain basic sanitary supplies such as soap, changing garment, underwear, towels, toilet paper and sanitary pads to ensure that women and girls maintain hygiene and sanitation even while at the evacuation centre.

Women in their last trimester of pregnancy were also given clean delivery kits which could be used in case of an emergency childbirth outside a health centre or hospital.

Interviewed before the mothers’ information session, Eagil was only wishing she could have more underwear to maintain hygiene. She was, therefore, thankful to receive more than what she expected.

UNFPA is distributing thousands more of the dignity kits to all women and girls still living in evacuation centres in the coming days as supplies have started arriving. Clean delivery kits will also be provided to pregnant women nearing their due date.

For more information, contact:
Arlene Calaguian Alano, UNFPA Information & Communication Officer
Mobile: 63 2 917 515 3559
E-mail: alano@unfpa.org