As one WSPA Response team is out working helping thousands of animals with vaccinations and veterinary care in Northern Cebu and Bantayan Islands,our second response team is just back from our first day of rapid assessment in Antique, Western Visayas. Yesterday, we visited communities and farms all along this province that makes up the western coast of the island of Panay.
As in Cebu last week, we saw evidence of the terrible fury of Typhoon Haiyan. Destruction was everywhere and, two weeks out, it is clear that the recovery across the affected region will need help.
We met a lady named Ilma De la Cruz in Bagacay Village who told us the heartbreaking story of her cow. Ilma told me that when the typhoon hit, she and her neighbours took shelter in their homes and hoped for the best. The homes in Bagacay village are made the traditional way, from wood and leaves and many of them lay in ruins, in silent testament to how utterly defenceless residents were against a storm of this magnitude.
Ilma said she owned two cows before Haiyan, but that one was already dead. Her cow, a four year old female was struck by a falling coconut trees, and suffered a broken leg. With no other option, and unwilling to watch her cherished companion suffer, she made the difficult choice of having her put down.
Remote parts of the Philippines like Bagacay village don’t have access to vets on a regular basis, so grave injuries like a broken leg that might otherwise be treatable, end up being death sentences for the animals.
Another man, Roberto Melocotones aged 60 broke down in tears as he described losing 1000 of his chickens. He said he felt helpless knowing that this investment was now gone. Roberto said, without the income from the eggs and meat he didn’t know how he could continue sending his children to school. He said in order to keep his remaining chickens alive, he would be forced to take out loans at high interest rates from predatory lenders who appear like vultures in the wake of devastating events. He described a future all too common in developing countries following massive disasters and in his one story, encapsulated a basic truth about the role animals play in people’s future financial and food security.
The loss of animals can lock people into an endless cycle of poverty, take away their ability to educate their children, expand their businesses and the freedom to make choices in their lives.
As we made our way through Antique, we helped farmers and their animals by providing mineral solutions for poultry, vaccinations for dogs, cattle and pigs. This is just the beginning. We are focused now on maintaining the health and welfare of surviving animals so that their human companions have a chance of recovering and resuming a normal life.
We will stay the course in the Philippines and are right now planning a medium and long-term response that keeps the animals healthy and safe and gives people who rely on them a fighting chance at freedom and recovery.