Fear and uncertainty remain for thousands of people displaced by the month-long clashes between government armed forces and armed groups in Maguindanao in March.
“Although the fighting in Maguindanao has stopped, irregular skirmishes and uncertainty in the area prevent displaced families from returning to their homes,” said Pascal Mauchle, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in the Philippines which along with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), is lending assistance to the affected residents.
Unable to go back to their homes and farms, many of which have been affected by the current dry season brought about by El Niño, displaced families living in evacuation centers are dependent on aid.
“The prolonged dry season has increased the vulnerability of the displaced families, in terms of their livelihood and health. Each day in these temporary sites is a major struggle for them, and the future remains unclear,” Mauchle added.
On April 4, the ICRC and the PRC began trucking clean water daily to around 16,000 people in 17 evacuation centers in Mamasapano and Datu Salibo municipalities in Maguindanao. In the coming days, the number of beneficiaries will grow to 26,000 people in 24 evacuation centers.
With hygiene and sanitation being another primary concern, ICRC will conduct maintenance of toilets it had built in 2008, when thousands of people were displaced in Maguindanao. It will also construct new permanent toilets with septic tanks in several evacuation centers.
“The toilets we constructed in 2008 are being used by people who are presently displaced. As such, the sanitation infrastructures we are planning to build will remain for any future needs,” said Marco Albertini, ICRC’s water and habitat coordinator.
To improve health response to emergencies, the ICRC and the PRC have begun first aid training of 60 health staff working in rural health units and other emergency response units in Matalam and Kabacan, North Cotabato.
The ICRC continues to coordinate its efforts with local authorities, which also have been supporting the displaced.