BALO-I, Lanao del Norte – Congestion and sanitation are among the major problems that evacuees from Marawi City every day inside the evacuation center here, particularly at the town’s gymnasium.
A total of 172 families or 1,025 individuals, including children, took refuge in a gymnasium here after the Maute Group attacked Marawi last May 23.
Two more evacuation centers were put up in Balo-i due to the influx of evacuees during the early days of Marawi siege – at the Balo-i Alif Cultural Center and Sumampong Complex.
Nesphia Ali of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is in-charge of the evacuees inside the gymnasium and confirmed the problems that the displaced families face every day.
Families will have to accommodate themselves in small spaces inside the gymnasium and they sleep, including their children in floors covered only with thin mats.
There’s only one toilet that is being utilized by the evacuees – a situation that might lead to other problems such as diseases, Ali said.
She also told reporters in an interview on Sunday afternoon, June 18 that there is an existing medical facility in the town that can provide services to sick evacuees.
“Good that the Rural Health Unit is just in the vicinity of the evacuation centers,” Ali said, adding that sick evacuees were already referred and attended to by said facility in the past days.
Aside from congestion and sanitation, water for drinking and washing is also a problem now for the evacuees in Balo-i.
Ali said that other evacuees utilize the nearest river in the town for bathing and washing of clothes.
She added that other evacuees need more clothing as they only carried a few of their belongings when they hurriedly left Marawi when the fighting broke out.
Ali also emphasized the need to support the lactating mothers inside the evacuation center.
“Lactating mothers need nutritious foods while other children need supplies of milk,” she said.
Transfer of evacuation center
Ali also told reporters that the local government, in coordination with the concerned agencies are now looking for the possibility of transferring the evacuation centers to areas with enough spaces.
She said they are mulling to transfer the evacuation centers in vacant areas near the airport.
The Maria Cristina Airport, also known as the Iligan Airport is situated in Balo-i town.
“If we can utilize the much wider and vacant areas near the airport, then the problem of decongestion will be solved as spacious shelters can be constructed there,” Ali said.
She added that more sanitation facilities, bathing and washing areas can be constructed in vacant areas near the airport.
More volunteers needed
Ali also asked that more social workers and volunteers be assigned to each of the three evacuation centers in Balo-i.
She and another social worker are the only person in-charge on the evacuees at the gymnasium.
Ali said the ideal number of social workers and volunteers needed to cater the day-to-day concerns more than a thousand evacuees is 20.
“The children here, even their parents need psycho-social interventions due to their experiences, worries, and burdens that they now face,” she pointed out.
Ali said the matter was already recommended to their higher office for consideration. (davaotoday.com)