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Nation

Rainy season to worsen plight of Zambo siege evacuees

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - About 40,000 people displaced by the Zamboanga crisis are living in difficult conditions or are still largely dependent on assistance, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported Friday.

ICRC said the displaced persons are either staying in overcrowded evacuation centers or are being hosted by their relatives.

“Many of the displaced were trapped in poverty even before the clashes in September last year left them bereft of their homes and without the few assets they had possessed,” the international humanitarian group said in a statement.

Pascal Mauchle, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, said the affected persons should be given access to vital services.

"Progress has been made in relocating a number of displaced people to transitional sites around the city," Mauchle said.

"Nevertheless, efforts should continue to ensure that services such as water supply and sanitation are provided before moving people to these transitional sites,” he added.

The Zamboanga crisis occurred in September and left at least 140 persons dead and thousands of families homeless.

The crisis started after followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chairman Nur Misuari tried to raise their flag at the Zamboanga City hall. The massing up came weeks after Misuari declared independence from the Philippines in Talipao, Sulu and declared himself leader of what he called the “Bangsamoro Republik.”

Misuari’s followers held civilians hostage, resulting in clashes with security forces that claimed the lives of 19 soldiers, five policemen, 11 civilians and 105 rebels.

Mauchle said the start of the rainy season would put “additional strain on an already vulnerable population."

ICRC warned that poor sanitation practices and unsuitable facilities in evacuation centers along the Cawa-Cawa shoreline and the Joaquin Enriquez Stadium “create ideal conditions for the spread of disease.”

ICRC said it is working with the Philippine Red Cross and the local water board to improve the sanitation and water supply in evacuation centers and transitional sites.

The group has also implemented cash-for-work schemes and provided unconditional cash grants that benefited almost 50,000 people.

"These people struggle every day to make ends meet. Not knowing when they will be able to resume their normal lives is a tremendous burden on an already exhausted community," said Gareth Gleed, the delegate in charge of ICRC activities in Zamboanga.

ICRC is also refurbishing health stations damaged in the clashes and is providing medicines, supplies and technical and financial support to local health authorities.

 

BANGSAMORO REPUBLIK

GARETH GLEED

ICRC

INTERNATIONAL COMMITTEE OF THE RED CROSS

JOAQUIN ENRIQUEZ STADIUM

MAUCHLE

MISUARI

MORO NATIONAL LIBERATION FRONT

NUR MISUARI

ZAMBOANGA

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