After the storm: Devastating photos from the Philippines

By Jessica Souza
December 22, 2021

One of the most powerful storms of the year, Super Typhoon Rai, slammed into the Philippines on Dec. 16.  

Here’s what we know: At least 375 people have been killed as of Dec. 21, and the death toll is still rising. Schools, health care centers and homes have been destroyed. More than 400,000 people are displaced from their homes, many staying in crowded shelters with limited supplies and possible exposure to COVID-19. More than 4 million children have been impacted. 

Power outages and road closures have made communication with many areas of the country difficult. But Plan International’s team in the Philippines was able to capture these photos, and we’re sharing them with the world as a reminder that as climate change drives more monster storms like Super Typhoon Rai, the destruction is particularly heartbreaking for low-income families, and especially girls.

The storm first made landfall on Siargao Island, destroying this rural community.

Experts say this particular storm was unpredictable. People in the Philippines are accustomed to typhoons (on average they get about 20 each year), but this one was different. Iintensified to a Category 5 storm just hours before landfall, becoming much more intense than predictedCommunities were caught by surprise. At its worst, the typhoon sustained winds of 121 miles per hour with gusts up to 168 mph. 

Many homes in the Philippines were destroyed by the storm, and thousands of people are now homeless.

Super Typhoon Rai is not an isolated incident — scientists say storms are getting stronger, and deadlier, because of climate change caused by humans. Research suggests our warming oceans are part of the reason we’re seeing more extreme hurricanes and typhoons, with higher winds, more rain and more volatile patterns 

A mother carries her young child through their community on Siargao Island.

Climate change, and the powerful, unpredictable weather it produces, is especially devastating for people living in poverty. When destructive stormsdroughts or floods hit extremely low-income communities, there can be unbelievable levels of death and destruction, as well as long-term health and economic impacts. Climate-related crises are displacing millions of people all over the world, forcing them to migrate and become climate refugees.

A woman surveys the destruction caused by Super Typhoon Rai in her community.

Girls and young women are especially vulnerable during natural disasters. Emergencies create chaos, and in that chaos, girls are more vulnerable to gender-based violence, trafficking, exploitation and child marriage. Their education is also more likely to be permanently interrupted. And many of their unique health needs — like access to menstrual products or reproductive health services — are neglected in times of crisis. 

Girls cannot afford to be further marginalized. COVID-19 has already exacerbated these challenges over the past two years. So, for girls also living through the humanitarian nightmare that is Super Typhoon Rai, the situation becomes extremely dire.   

A young girl is comforted by her dogs near wreckage caused by the typhoon.

That’s why Plan’s Humanitarian Response work focuses on the unique needs of girls and their families.  

And when it comes to responding to disasters, every minute matters. So, as soon as the typhoon hit, Plan’s emergency response team in the Philippines didn’t waste a single one.  

Here’s some of the work that is already underway: We’re planning the distribution of thousands of clean water and sanitation kits for children and their families, as well as menstrual health kits for girls, and we’re coordinating with local governments, organizations and the people affected to assess communities’ needs. 

Children — especially girls — have unique needs in disasters and are often overlooked.

Plan is able to get to work immediately when disasters strike because of our local presence in communities — about 90% of our staff are from the country or region where they work.

Another reason Plan can act quickly is the support of people like you, who know that while climate crises are an existential threat to us all, they’re especially dangerous for the most vulnerable people in the world.  

If you’re ready to take action today, your donation to the Humanitarian Response Fund will help Plan continue to effectively respond to disasters like Super Typhoon Rai and deliver lifesaving resources to girls and their families. 

Give now