HELP REBUILD their homes, employ their parents, fix their schools, and give them school supplies.

These wishes top the priority list of the children whose lives and homes had been devastated by super typhoon Yolanda.

The wind, the waves, and even “ghosts” and alcohol consumption among their seniors, top their list of worries, however.

In a press dispatch on recent consultations with the children of Capiz, Cebu, East Samar, Iloilo, Leyte, and West Samar, representatives of international humanitarian agencies made a pitch for adults to involve children in the rehabilitation process for the communities affected by Yolanda.

The consultations, co-organized by Save the Children, Plan International, World Vision, and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted the importance of adults working with and listening to children to discern how best address the aftermath of the typhoon.

“By taking children’s views into account, agencies and the Government of the Philippines can ensure that the decisions being made, which affect children’s lives now and in the future, really respond to their needs,” said the press dispatch from UNICEF. “Children play a vital role not only in helping rebuild, but also in reducing risk and strengthening resilience in the long term.”

A total of 124 children who attended the consultations reportedly made important recommendations “on how more toilets were needed in evacuation centers, more sanitary napkins should be included in hygiene kits, carpentry tools should be provided in shelter kits, and on the urgent need to clean-up after the oil spill off the coast of Panay Island,” UNICEF added.

Mary Joy, 11, of barangay Tolosa, Leyte island, said: “I hope they can help us rebuild the houses, and they can help my mother find a job. I [also] hope they can start fixing our school, and they can give us school supplies.” Mary Joy’s house was severely damaged when a coconut tree fell onto their roof, while gusts of wind tore down their walls.

“Mary Joy was one of 124 children who spoke openly and honestly about their fears of wind, rain, waves, and of ghosts and alcohol consumption amongst adults,” the statement said.

“Many also spoke about fears that their parents would not recover their livelihood, which may require them to drop out of school.”

“As Typhoon Haiyan (international name of super typhoon Yolanda) wreaked devastation on millions, the Filipinos, especially children, have shown remarkable spirit and resilience,” said Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF Representative in the Philippines.

“We need to continue listening to children and working with them to facilitate their participation. They will be a part of our response and continue to be source of the resilience they have demonstrated.”

Yolanda wreaked havoc on social and public services that are most important to children, such as schools, day-care centers, health centers and homes. However, “as is often the case in disasters in the Philippines and elsewhere, children’s views have so far not been sufficiently considered, with their needs often being decided for them,” the statement noted.

Another participant, Darren, 16, from Dulag, Leyte, and his family survived the typhoon by sheltering in a nearby house built from cement. He was one of the many children who highlighted what children can do to help.

Darren said: “Children like us can plant seedlings that can replace the trees that were toppled in order to avoid flooding in the future. We can also support the activities of the different organizations working in our community, especially those focused on children. In this way, we can contribute to our own development, and we can further invite other organizations to help us.”

As a result of the consultations, Save the Children, Plan, UNICEF, and World Vision offered four recommendations:

* “All relief actors take children’s recommendations into consideration in their current relief efforts;

* “The Government of Philippines convenes consultations with children in the forthcoming Post-Disaster Needs Assessment;

* “Civil society organizations, international agencies and the national disaster agency work to identify ways help children best to prepare for future hazards; and

* “All relief actors should provide a framework for accountability to affected children.”

By mandate, UNICEF “promotes the rights and well-being of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.”

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