DAVAO CITY, Philippines – As the city enters its fourth week in the community quarantine, Manobo evacuees in the UCCP Haran sanctuary are adjusting hard, but worry what lies ahead for their survival.
They have stayed for five years in Haran, to evade paramilitary and military attacks. Now they have to protect themselves like the rest of the country from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“We worry about our situation and our children. The evacuation only has limited resources and support,” said Lorena Mandacawan, one of the community leaders now leading the health committee inside the sanctuary.
The sanctuary housed around 350 children and adolescents.
The health committee has been a fixture of the sanctuary for years. It has also dealt with the dengue outbreak in the city in 2017 and has a pool of medical volunteers to assist them through the years.
With COVID-19, Lorena said medical volunteers educated them about the virus and measures to prevent its spread among the community.
The volunteers and committee educated the community on the measures. Visitors who donate or assist them have to be stopped. They set up disinfection areas for Manobos who go out to procure food and needs for their families.
“We can only do what we see as needed to make sure that the virus will not affect us,” Lorena said.
“Even if the evacuation area is limited, we urged our people to practice physical distancing and to stay in their own makeshifts. Though we are not used to it as Lumad are always in the fields, we keep reminding them that it is necessary,” she added.
The Manobos also learn from their experience. When the Talaingod Manobos returned to their community for a brief moment in 2016, they were hit by an epidemic possibly caused by contaminated water that killed some community members. They learned to observe proper health practice and hygiene.
The Manobo in this sanctuary come from Talaingod and Kapalong in Davao del Norte and from Arakan in North Cotabato. They have stayed as there has been no guarantee from local government to protect them or their community schools from attacks from the military and paramilitary.
The Manobos said they haven’t also heard from local government officials and agencies what measures they can extend to help them.
One of the concerns of the community is to find food supply. The Manobos can consume up to 20 sacks of rice a week.
They had relied on donations from institutions, groups, and individuals. But they also have been taught backyard farming such as vegetables to augment their food intake.
But with the enhanced quarantine in place, they worry what lies ahead as food supplies may be limited.
“Now that we know that everyone is affected by this COVID-19 pandemic, we are in fear that there will be days of hunger for us. We understand but we still ask for everyone’s help,” Lorena said. (davaotoday.com)