Mass evacuations as Philippines await Typhoon Hagupit

Natalie Curtis's picture
Natalie Curtis Senior Editorial and Stories Manager

Tens of thousands of people have evacuated their homes as Typhoon Hagupit, locally know as Typhoon Ruby, approaches the Philippines.

Some of the millions of houses destroyed by Typhoon Haiyan
The aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, in the City of Tacloban in 2013
Photo: Gideon Mendel/Corbis/ActionAid

Hagupit is currently moving with speeds of up to 250 kilometres per hour.

It is on course for the Eastern and Northern Samar provinces and the city of Tacloban, where thousands were tragically killed by Typhoon Haiyan a year ago. There is, however, a 25 per cent chance that the path of the storm may recurve.

Hagupit is due to hit land on Saturday, during the night, which will not only make it more terrifying for people, but considerably more challenging to save lives.

Panic and fear

Our aid workers have told us that:

  • people have started panic-buying food and emergency items like torches, batteries, candles, radios and cellophane.
  • people are understandably very afraid and in many areas have evacuated themselves.
  • the President is warning the country to prepare for the worst. He is considering declaring a state of calamity, to ensure a fast humanitarian response.

Preparations and evacuations

In the past 48 hours, ActionAid has been working with people in the regions of Northern Cebu, Iloilo, Leyte, Antique, Eastern and Western Samar to:

  • evacuate families to safer sites, such as churches, schools and a specially built evacuation centre in Iloilo.
  • prepare supplies of food and shelter materials.
  • put in place an emergency response plan in the event that Hagupit does make landfall.

In recent months, ActionAid has helped train 16,000 people to prepare for future emergencies, including evacuation practice, search and rescue, and first aid.

Legacy of Typhoon Haiyan

Communities have only just started to recover from the devastating impact of Typhoon Haiyan last year, which affected 14 million people, killed over six thousand people and displaced four million people.

Many people are still living in temporary shelter. Others have only partially rebuilt their homes and livelihoods.

In the immediate aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, ActionAid helped over 160,000 of the most vulnerable people, including orphans, single mothers, elderly people with disabilities and people living in the furthest and hard-to-reach areas. A second typhoon could devastate these communities all over again.

A Christmas message from Sister Sledge

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Sister Sledge Celebrity supporters

Sisters Debbie, Joni and Kim from 70s girl group Sister Sledge, best known for 'We are family', talk about what Christmas means to them. Watch the video below to listen to their Christmas message and find out how you can give a child a future.

What were the best Christmas presents you were given as children?

One Christmas, we got every single thing on our list.  We made a big list and when we got together it was a serious meeting. We got an Easy Bake Oven, a Beauty Vanity, and a hostess buffet.

What do you love about Christmas?

Debbie: One of the most wonderful things about Christmas is seeing a child open up a gift.  They just light up the whole room and it just lights up your whole being.

A message from Sister Sledge:

We’re Sister Sledge.  Give a child a future and sponsor a child this Christmas with ActionAid.

Sponsor a child and you'll support their family too

Sister Sledge are best known for their hit anthem 'We are family', released in 1979. They became a symbol of strong family values, and went on to become international superstars - best known during the disco era, but still much listened to and loved today.

In the developing countries we work in, such as Malawi and Afghanistanfamilies often can't afford to send their children to school, or give them more than one meal a day, let alone a Christmas present that will light up their faces.

Sponsoring a child with ActionAid this Christmas will not only light up their face with the prospect of an extra meal and the chance to go to school, but it will help their brothers and sisters and their wider community too, by giving them access to their basic needs.

Please consider giving a child - and their family -  the chance of a better future this Christmas.

The mini skirt: fashion crime or symbol of sexual freedom?

Natalie Curtis's picture
Natalie Curtis Senior Editorial and Stories Manager

This week, reports of women stripped in the streets of Nairobi started circulating online. Their crime? Wearing a mini skirt.

Worse still, the victims were protesting their right to wear – you guessed it – a mini skirt. Or anything else they want, when and wherever they choose. Stripping women for wearing allegedly ‘indecent’ clothing doesn’t just happen in Kenya. We’ve seen it in Uganda, Malawi and Egypt, to name a few.

So it got me thinking, what’s so offensive about the mini skirt? And why are some people so threatened by it?

Twiggy dancing on Make A Gif

Ancient miniskirts

Skirts it seems have always been a way of making a public statement.

The skirt itself is the second oldest garment known to man – predated only by loin cloths. For hundreds of years, a long skirt was a statement of wealth and prestige because fabric was so expensive.

Reconstruction of one of the Taureador frescos at Knossos showing a female athlete wearing a mini skirt.

Photo: WikiCommons user Lapplaender.

But some scholars believe that miniskirts were common in the earliest civilisations. Archaeologists have unearthed ancient mini-skirted figurines in some of Europe’s oldest villages (5400-4700 B.C) and ancient Egyptian frescos show female acrobatic dancers wearing mini skirts in a show of power and daring.

The ‘feminist’s favourite’

Mary Quant, who brought the mini skirt to London in 1964, said “a mini skirt was a way of rebelling”.  She considered it practical and liberating, allowing women comfort, “with the ability to run for a bus.”

Mary Quant fashion show on Make A Gif

The bottom edge of the skirt had to sit halfway up the thigh and fall no more than four inches below the bum.

In an era of revolution and change, the mini skirt had a ‘marmite’ effect. Some saw it as symbolising empowerment and independence, others vulnerability and a desire to sexually please men.

When I asked my mum and aunties how they felt, their response was unified: “ever so fashionable and ever so popular with the boys”.

Sexual aggression

Perhaps it’s this mixture of sexual and female empowerment that so threatens certain men the world over? The concept of women owning their sexual power challenges a culture where men routinely call the shots.

fT5kLY on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

Some governments have been so threatened by the mini skirt that they’ve banned it under the guise of ‘protecting’ women.

The ‘Slut Walk’, a global movement of protest marches, started in response to a Toronto Police officer saying “women should avoid dressing like sluts" as a precaution against unwanted sexual attention.

Their message is clear: Rape should never be explained or excused. Woman should have control over their own bodies without fear of sexual aggression or judgement.

Street harassment

Yesterday I received a video from Kenya, made undercover by women on the streets of Nairobi. In it, they documented their daily struggle against street harassment simply getting the bus to work. None were mini skirted.

So mini skirts or not, what it comes down to is control. Control over women’s bodies, women’s choices and women’s freedom of movement.

This has to end. Women being able to decide what to wear, on their own terms is a first step, whether that’s a short skirt or a black bag. It’s all about choice.

Now… where’s my mini skirt?


Richard Herring on childhood, Subbuteo and the meaning of Christmas

Richard Herring's picture
Richard Herring Celebrity guest blogger

British comedian, writer and podcaster, Richard Herring, shares his take on the best things about childhood and Christmas. Read this exclusive Q & A below and find out how you can help give a future to a child living in poverty.

Photo of Richard Herring in his school uniform in his school days
Richard Herring in his school days
Photo: Richard Herring

Being a child

What three things were best about being a child?

I loved school (I know), being cheeky and being able to spend all day playing.

When you were small, what were the three things you couldn’t live without?

Subbuteo, jokes and family.

Imagining the future

When you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?

A clown to begin with, then I wanted to write stories. Then be a comedian. So I essentially knew what I wanted to be at four years old.

How did you envision the future as a child, what did you think it would be like? How is it different to what you imagined?

I wrote a story called 'Time Bomb' in which the future was exactly the same as the 1980s, as science had run out of inventions. Embarrassed by their failure to live up to sci-fi predictions they painted everything silver and put switches on things and pretended they worked automatically. I was wrong. Turns out we had a lot more inventions in us.

What piece of advice would you give to your 10-year-old self?

Never listen to advice sent back through time by your future self.


What were the best and worst Christmas presents you were given as a child and why?

6 x 3 snooker table was the best. Book tokens instead of a Scalextric was probably the worst!

What one thing would you change about Christmas?

It comes round too fast. Once every two years.

What if Richard hadn't gone to school?

We love the fact that going to school was one of Richard's favourite things as a child. Let's face it, without going to school, it's unlikely he'd have become the succesful comedian and writer he'd apparently dreamed of being from the age of four.

Millions of children in developing countries don't get to go to school. No education often means no livelihood, fewer choices and a bleak future.

This Christmas, we're asking you to help a child go to school and, like Richard, realise their dreams. Please consider giving a child the chance of a better future this Christmas.

What is it about the Christmas ads that captures our hearts?

Michelle Lowery's picture
Michelle Lowery Communications Team

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last week, it will not have escaped you that the Christmas season is upon us. The big retailers are ringing the bells to say “it’s here, it’s launched”. John Lewis, as part of its annual tear-fest, has given us Monty the Penguin. M&S has Christmas fairies spreading festive kindness far and wide. Sainsbury's has pulled out the big guns for their First World War truce. No doubt there are more ads to come.

But what is it about these ads that captures our attention and makes them so heart-warming that people up and down the country find themselves wiping away a tear?

Elisa (third from the left) posing for a photograph with some of her family outside their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Elisa (third from the left) with her mother and four of her ten siblings outside their home in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Photo: Kate Holt/ActionAid

Well, they highlight the joy of giving, of spreading cheer to loved ones, but they also tell a story, a story that captures the magic of a child’s happiness. A little boy whose imagination is so vivid that to him his toy penguin is real, so he buys him a playmate for Christmas to give him the same love and companionship that the boy sees all around him. Even the most cynical of us can’t fail to have our hearts a little melted by the sentiment of love, friends and family.

Our Christmas campaign

Today, we launch our Christmas campaign, and we hope that we can inspire some of the same sentiment to help children urgently in need. This Christmas, for thousands of children living in some of the world’s poorest countries - including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Afghanistan, and Myanmar - their story is not a happy one, but one of desperation and fear of an uncertain future.

Children like 6-year-old Elisa from the Democratic Republic of Congo are hungry and scared. Instead of going to school Elisa (pictured above) spends her days working with her mother, carrying heavy loads of glass bottles so they can earn enough money for their family to eat just one meal a day. You have the power to change that.

Give a child a future

Child sponsorship doesn’t just help one child, it benefits their loved ones and neighbours too. Just £15 a month, or 50p a day, helps ensure children get enough food to eat and the chance to go to school.

At ActionAid we’re asking if, this Christmas, you could sponsor a child like Elisa, and change their story to a story in which they too can experience joy and happiness and the chance of a better future.

Photo: ActionAid/Kate Holt

Giving birth in an Ebola epidemic: 1 in 7 women could die

Sarah Alexander's picture
Sarah Alexander ActionAid Ambassador

Last year, actress and ActionAid Ambassador Sarah Alexander visited health centres and maternity wards in Bo, now one of the worst Ebola hit areas in Sierra Leone.  Here, in a guest blog for ActionAid, Sarah talks about the huge risks for women giving birth in the heart of the Ebola epidemic.

Sarah Alexander, with a new mother in a small but functioning birth waiting home, built with support from ActionAid
Sarah Alexander with midwife Mary Angela and Iye Mammy, 25, holding her newborn baby, Bo, Sierra Leone
Photo: Greg Funnell/ActionAid

A year ago, I was sat in a medical centre with Mary – a midwife who delivers a baby a day across 15 communities - discussing the importance of increasing the medical services available to pregnant women. She has one pair of forceps and sometimes delivers two babies at the same time.

Before ActionAid built the medical centre Mary worked in, women often died during labour, as they had to make a five-mile journey on foot to the nearest hospital.

Having given birth twice, I couldn’t begin to imagine going through it on my own, in the middle of the bush, with no help and no support, let alone any drugs.

1 in 7 women may die in childbirth

So it saddened and shocked me when I heard that, in Ebola affected Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, one in seven women could die in childbirth.

Imagine giving birth in the middle of the Ebola epidemic:

  • You’re too afraid to visit health facilities because of the fear and stigma around Ebola.
  • Back home, no one will help you, because they’re afraid of contact with bodily fluids, which is how the virus spreads.
  • So eventually you travel all the way to a health facility but they turn you away as they’re already overstretched trying to cope with Ebola patients.
  • Tired and alone, you end up giving birth in the streets, with no one to help you because people fear coming near you, and feeling vulnerable and scared for the safety of you and your newborn baby.

This is the reality for many women in Ebola affected West Africa right now.

Ebola ‘Miracle’ baby

The medical centre I visited in Sierra Leone was basic. The delivery room was small and, compared to the UK, pretty run down. But the women I met were receiving the care and attention they needed. It breaks my heart to think that now, because of the fear of Ebola, even the most basic of care is being denied to women at their most vulnerable.

ActionAid has told me about a woman they’ve been helping in Liberia, who was forced to give birth on her own, because everyone around her – even the nurses - were too scared to touch her, in case she had Ebola. Luckily she gave birth to a healthy baby girl, who she named ‘Miracle’.

More help needed for women

In Sierra Leone, ActionAid will soon be working with the government’s District Health Management Teams to provide cleaning materials and protective equipment to keep hospitals safe for pregnant women, as well as running media campaigns to encourage pregnant women to visit hospitals.

But more must be done to stop this horrendous prediction of 1 in 7 women dying in childbirth coming true. We have to ensure that pregnant women get the care they urgently need otherwise we will see the rate of maternal deaths skyrocket. Ebola has taken enough lives already.

Further reading on Ebola