Struggle Continues for Typhoon Haiyan Survivors


Hannah Mae is 11 years old, but weighs just 20 lbs. She has cerebral palsy and, since her house was damaged by Typhoon Haiyan, she and her family now struggle to get by. Suffering from acute pneumonia, she is one of the vulnerable Filipinos that Handicap International is assisting in the Philippines.

Hannah Mae lives in Tacloban, the city worst hit by Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November 2013. She shares a small, two-room house with a thin sheet-metal roof with her four brothers and sisters, and her parents. No strangers to tropical storms, the family had prepared for Typhoon Haiyan as they would any other, securing their possessions as best as they could inside their home, and taking shelter in a more solid house nearby.

But nothing could prepare them for the most powerful typhoon on record. Typhoon Haiyan was an extremely traumatic event for Hannah Mae and her family—their worst nightmare come true. Winds exceeding 120 mph smashed through windows and ripped off sheet metal roofs like handkerchiefs. The sea flooded the city, smashing cargo vessels over the tops of houses. 

Hannah Mae has cerebral palsy and cannot move around without help. The stress of the disaster, paired with poor hygiene and her family’s now difficult living conditions, have complicated her life even more. 

Handicap International’s teams met Hannah Mae as they were going from door-to-door, looking to help the most vulnerable people. The team supplied her with a wheelchair to help her move around. This means she can now travel to the hospital more easily, and sit upright more comfortably for at least two hours a day, allowing her to play a more active role in family life.

A team consisting of a physiotherapist and an occupational therapist visit her every week, in hospital and at home. They check if Hannah Mae is receiving the treatment she needs from doctors, and train her family to take care of her, move her around, and help her to do her exercises. This allows her to stay as supple and comfortable as possible. She was also given a mattress and a yoga ball to encourage her—when she has the energy—to perform exercises that will help her regain mobility.