The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has raised concern over the plight of thousands of civilians displaced by ongoing fighting in Basilan between government forces and jihadist militants supporting the international radical group Islamic State (IS).
“The security situation in Basilan is precarious. We are concerned for the civilians as we expect clashes to continue in the coming weeks,” Yann Fridez, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao, said in a statement provided to the media on Friday.
The renewed fighting early this month has dislocated 3,400 families or 17,000 individuals in the towns of Tipo-Tipo, Al-Barka and Ungkaya Pukan where civilians sought refuge with relatives because of shelling and air strikes over the past three weeks.
Casualties and injured fighters were reported on both sides, while a few civilians were also wounded as a consequence of the clashes.
“We urge all parties to the fighting to exercise utmost precaution to minimize the impact or damage to civilian communities. We also ask them to spare civilian structures such as hospitals, schools and houses, and facilities that are essential for their daily lives,” Fridez said.
The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose mandate is to protect and assist people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence.
It has been in the Philippines for more than 70 years with permanent presence in Mindanao since 1982.
A few days ago, the ICRC distributed essential household items, including hygiene kits, blankets, towels, jerry cans, mosquito nets and sleeping mats, to the displaced individuals.
The group also provided dressing kits and medical supplies such as drugs and anti-tetanus vaccines to enhance the capacity of rural health units to treat sick and wounded people.
In April, the ICRC and the Department of Health-Health Emergency Management Bureau conducted Basic Life Support training for 168 health staff in Basilan and Sulu provinces.
It is in these two provinces where the government forces have been running after members of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), which is blamed for several atrocities.
Many ASG attacks were claimed by the IS, another acronym for ISIS, or Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The latest one took place on Monday.
The IS recently named ASG chief Isnilon Hapilon as its commander covering countries in Southeast Asia.