Philippines: WFP Rice Helps Mother Steer Through Crisis

Published on 23 November 2009

Joralyn Castillo will return to her home when she can get there without a boat.

(Copyright: WFP/Martin Penner)

After Typhoon Ketsana dumped the heaviest rain in decades on Manila, wrecking her home, Joralyn Castillo and her family were in danger of sliding into hunger and destitution. Emergency rice rations from WFP are helping make sure that doesn’t happen.

MANILA – Joralyn, her husband and their five children sat in their rickety shack by the river and watched with creeping terror as the rain poured down and the water level rose. When the water reached their door step, they grabbed a few belongings and fled.

They took refuge in the home of some relatives who lived further away from the river. But the next day the swirling water arrived there too. So they went to an evacuation centre and stayed there for four days, receiving food and other relief supplies.

When the rain stopped, Joralyn returned to their home in Pasig, one of the poorest parts of Manila, and found it was under water. After another week the water subsided enough for her to inspect the damage.

Muddy water

“We lost so much in the floodwater: clothes, the children’s things, books, things for school, all the bedding was covered in mud,” says Joralyn, as she looks at the muddy water still surrounding her home five weeks after the typhoon.

Before the flooding, Joralyn’s family was poor but with the 5,000 pesos her husband earns mending roads they were self-sufficient.  “A lot of our money went on food but we were managing. I could buy fresh fish and vegetables from market.”

After Ketsana, the delicate balance of their hand-to-mouth existence broke down amid the sudden emergency needs and a temporary loss of income – for many days her husband could not work in a city underwater. Joralyn had to borrow money – at an exhorbitant interest rate -- just for food and basic needs.

25 kilos of rice

They are now living in a relative’s spare room. Joralyn’s husband is working again but much of his salary goes to pay off debts, leaving little for food. “This rice is a really big help,” says Joralyn, indicating the 25-kilo bag she has just received at a WFP food distribution. “The children have been complaining about stomach ache from the bad food we’ve been eating.”

Joralyn says they will move back into their home as soon as she can get to her house without a boat. WFP food assistance in the weeks after the disaster has helped ensure the family is now in good enough shape – physically, economically and mentally – to face the arduous task of rebuilding their lives.

“We’re going to have to start again, practically from nothing. It’ll take time but we can do it.”

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about the author

Martin Penner

Web Editor

Martin Penner, a former journalist, has worked for WFP since 2008.