Hope for conflict-affected families

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ZAMBOANGA City is buzzing with life again, two years after armed conflicts disrupted many lives, according to International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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Around 120,000 people were displaced by clashes in Zamboanga in September 2013. Thousands of structures, including many houses, were damaged or destroyed, making life extremely difficult for the affected communities.

Though most displaced people have since moved on with their lives, recovery is progressing slowly for about 17,000 of them living in 12 transition sites. Although these sites offer slightly better conditions than evacuation centers, access to clean water, sanitation, and livelihood opportunities remain a concern.

ICRC Zamboanga head Marcel Goyeneche said the committee together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) have extended support to speed up the recovery of the affected population since January to October 2015.

She cited the daily trucking of 36,000 liters of water to four transition sites, as well as helped in providing water storage to displaced people in Masepla 1, 2, and 3 and in Rio Hondo through the installation of six 10,000-liter stainless steel tanks. Upon the request of city authorities, the ICRC also installed a 10,000-liter bladder in Lupa-lupa.

In Taluksangay, the ICRC installed a permanent water supply system to serve both the displaced and resident populations. Water started flowing in September, and eventually the project was handed over to the community’s water association.

To improve sanitation, the 102 latrines built in the Joaquin Enriquez stadium and in the Rio Hondo site were regularly emptied until August.

With livelihoods disrupted by the conflict, helping displaced people stand on their own feet was part of the ICRC’s efforts. From January to October 2015, cash-for-work activities not only generated income for at least 820 of them but also benefited 14 community projects.

Conditional cash grants, meanwhile, have also helped displaced families to achieve a more sustainable form of livelihood. Some 840 families in seven transition sites received P10,000 grants each that were used to restock sari-sari stores, build boats, buy fishing gear and inputs for planting seaweed, procure sewing machines and tricycles, among others.

In Layag Layag, a 50-member cooperative benefited from a cash grant and training to help them plant and sell seaweeds.

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