PHILIPPINES: Fears for children as thousands evacuate Taal Volcano area amid COVID-19 chaos
Save the Children is deeply concerned about the safety of thousands of children and their families in Batangas, after the eruption of the Taal Volcano in the Philippines - which experts warned could be followed by further, more dangerous eruptions.
Some villages have been forced to evacuate, and around 21,000 people in the communities of Laurel and Agoncillo have been affected.
In addition, communities around the Taal Lake are advised to evacuate, take precautionary measures, and remain vigilant about possible hazards and possibly even a volcanic tsunami in the lake, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology.
As the country continues to grapple with a second wave of COVID-19 cases, Save the Children warned that another eruption would also increase the risk of the virus spreading.
Jerome Balinton, Humanitarian Manager at Save the Children in the Philippines, said:
“If the volcano erupts again, it could be deadly. Thousands of families and children have been forced to evacuate their homes and are temporarily sheltered in evacuation centers. We are concerned that, amidst the chaos of the evacuations, families will be unable to follow social distancing guidelines and face the risk of being infected with the virus. There are 16 active cases of COVID-19 reported in Agoncillo and Laurel and if the evacuation of families becomes overwhelming, it may contribute to the spread of the virus.”
“With the country still reeling from the fallout of COVID-19, a life-threatening volcanic eruption is the last thing these areas need. Many families have already lost their homes and their livelihoods because of the pandemic. Disasters like this exacerbate their situation and their ability to cope with life struggles.”
Albert Muyot, Chief Executive Officer at Save the Children in the Philippines, said:
“We are appealing to the authorities to ensure the safety and protection of children and their families during this crisis, and to develop specific programmes to address the safety, protection, participation, and development of all children when emergencies or disasters strike.”
“Children have the right to be protected from all forms of harm, to be with their families at all times, to remain healthy, and to continue learning amidst the pandemic and emergencies such as the latest Taal Volcano eruption. These rights need to be front and centre of any response.”
Save the Children’s humanitarian teams are standing by and ready to respond, and provide displaced families with temporary shelters and other essentials as needed.