• Senate sitting on bill protecting children during disasters

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    THE Senate has not taken action on the measure that would have provided immediate relief and protection to children during disasters and other emergency situations.

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    This was learned on Wednesday in light of the call of the Save the Children—an independent children’s rights organization with members in 29 countries and operational programs in 120 states—on Congress to pass the proposed Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act or House Bill 5285 which has been approved by the House on third reading in January but has been gathering dust in the Senate.

    Under the measure, the government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is mandated to prioritize and provide housing options for displaced children, families with children, and children separated from their families or relatives.

    In addition, the DSWD, in coordination with the local government units in areas declared under a state of calamity, should immediately establish an option for shelter or permanent housing. The shelter should have emergency latrines, bathing cubicles, and hand washing facility, as well as child-friendly spaces where children can take part in child activities and provisions for maternal and baby care and rooms to protect and ensure the right to privacy.

    Likewise, the measure will facilitate and ensure the immediate delivery of basic necessities and services specifically needed by the affected children and youth in different stages of development that include food, water, nutrition, medicines, clothing, sanitary and hygiene kits, and other emergency needs such as blankets, mosquito nets, cooking ware and flashlights, with needs and nutrition of pregnant women, lactating mothers, newborn babies, and children under two years old.

    The bill also provides the putting up of an emergency center with childcare services within five days from the declaration of a national or local state of calamity.

    “These communities understand the critical importance of passing the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. We strongly urge the Senate to pass this quickly before the next typhoon season,” Ned Olney, Country Director for Save the Children, said in a statement.

    “Thousands of lives were lost in Tacloban and across Leyte to Typhoon Yolanda. Their children bore the brunt of the destruction and sorrow. No child should ever die again to a Typhoon,” Olney added.

    Under the proposal, schools can be used as an evacuation center when no other safe place is available.

    When a school is tapped as an evacuation center, only gymnasiums, auditoriums and other open spaces should be used.

    When temporary learning spaces or other transitional and semi-permanent structures are used as classrooms after a disaster, the DepED should continuously monitor and assess the condition of such structures in order to ensure the safety of the children and provide optimal learning environments.

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