CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – In the second wave of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NHIM), the internally displaced persons from Marawi City have opened to facilitators on their experience as the conflict there has stretched for more than two months, said a civil society organizer.
The first round of MHIM was conducted by Kalinaw Mindanao and other concerned nongovernment organizations mostly in evacuation centers in the towns of Pantar, Lanao del Norte and Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur on June 13-16, a few weeks after thousands of residents fled Marawi City following the series of fighting between government forces and armed extremists.
“In the first NHIM, it was very difficult for us to reach out because [their emotions were very raw] and most of them are afraid to speak out during the first few days of the implementation of the martial law,” said Amirah Lidasan of the Moro Christian People’s Alliance, and convener of Kalinaw Mindanao.
Kalinaw Mindanao has been carrying out interfaith responses to crisis-torn areas in Mindanao, including massive displacements caused by the all-out war campaign of the then Estrada administration in Central Mindanao in 2000, in Sulu and Basilan by the Arroyo government in 2005, and in Central Mindanao in 2008 following the rejection of the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain (MOA-AD).
Lidasan said the evacuees found it hard to recount their ordeal in the first few days of the Marawi siege.
“For those who wanted to get their (IDPs) stories, it was very difficult. But in the second wave of the NIHM, they already felt comfortable with us. That have felt a sense of solidarity with us,” she added.
In fact, she said, those who had interactions with the NIHM have organized themselves and are acting as leaders in the evacuation site, even helping humanitarian agencies in the distribution of relief goods to their fellow evacuees.
“These organized IDPs are a big help to help to us in facilitating the evacuees’ experience, [especially on] repression and threat” in the hands of state agents while staying in the temporary shelters.
Aida Ibrahim, convener of the group Tindeg Ranao, one of the NGOs assisting in the NIHM, said their visit to the evacuation sites in Pantar and Saguiaran have proven to be fruitful based on the satisfaction of the IDPs who received the relief goods they handed out.
In Saguiaran, the NIHM gave out 600 relief packs to three sites in the Poblacion covered court, People’s Plaza and the municipality’s central elementary school. At an Islamic school in Pantar, IDPs received cooking pots, pails and bottles of water, she said.
At the evacuation sites in Iligan City, the NIHM distributed fresh vegetables to the IDPs.
“The processed food (canned goods) donated to them has proven to be unhealthy and had made their children sick. That’s why we chose to given them fresh vegetables,” Ibrahim said.
One of the most pressing concerns of the IDPs, she said, is the lack of services and the feeling of insecurity in the evacuation sites, most especially on health and the presence of the military in the areas.
“Evacuation centers are supposed to be zones of peace but the evacuees are afraid because of the presence of uniformed men,” she said.
She said all the evacuees want is to live in peace in their temporary shelter, but most of all, to be able to go back to their homes in Marawi.
In Cagayan de Oro, what the evacuees need aside from food is cash to be used for their children’s schooling, said Arabic teacher Hasannoor Sarip.
Sarip said he was able to talk to many of the evacuees staying in their relatives in the city. He found out that they are finding it hard to send their children to school here because of financial constraints.
The IDPs also want to earn money for their family could not provide for them due lack of employment or business opportunities.
As of August 1, there are about 55,627 families of 226,598 individuals living in Northern Mindanao who are either staying in 35 evacuation centers or with their relatives, said the Department of Social Welfare and Development-10 (DSWD-10).
The agency said the total cost of assistance extended to IDPs has reached P149 million, P138.300 million of which come from DSWD-10.
Of the total amount, P107.922 was allocated for family food packs and P30.477 million for non-food assistance.(davaotoday.com)