All-Female Police Guard Filipino Refugee Camps

In the chaos that follows natural disasters, women and children are at risk for trafficking and gender-based violence. After Typhoon Haiyan, a special corps of women police officers were dispatched to keep them safe.

This story was reported in Tacloban by Human Goods editor Christa Hillstrom and freelance journalist Brooke Jarvis for NBC News.

Verna Paredes, an officer of the Philippines National Police Women and Children's Protection Desk. Photo by Christa Hillstrom.


by Christa Hillstrom and Brooke Jarvis

Verna Paredes finished her breakfast—fish and rice prepared by the family of a woman she’d taken to the hospital—and laced up her black combat boots. She placed her handgun in a special holster designed to make it impossible to tell she’s armed.

“So the children don’t see,” she said.

Then she and her partner, Genevieve Alterado, headed out of the tent where they’ve been living for the last few months, ready to make their first round of the day checking on the 1,876 typhoon survivors living in and around the Astrodome, Tacloban’s largest refugee camp until its closure earlier this month.

Paredes and Alterado are members of the Women and Children Protection Desk, or WCPD, a specially chosen, all-female unit of the Philippines’ national police. Officers of the WCPD, and they alone, are in charge of security inside Tacloban’s refugee camps, which house survivors of last November’s Typhoon Haiyan, the largest storm to ever make landfall. They have been charged not just with keeping order, but with protecting the women and children of the camps from a new set of dangers: the gender-based violence and exploitation that often follows disasters.

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