DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A Maranao woman leader has urged evacuees to ask Christian churches to help them, and appealed to the latter to consider giving out cash instead of relief goods.
As the crisis dragged on for almost four months now, Samira Gutoc Tomawis head of the Ranao Rescue Team told Davao Today in an interview here Thursday, September 7, that it may be an opportunity to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians.
“Tayong Muslim na Filipino evacuees huwag tayong matakot sa church to find that they can actually provide support,” Tomawis said, as reports indicated of Church groups in Iligan City and Cagayan De Oro City that they were willing to give cash assistance tothe internally displaced persons, or IDPs.
Tomawis said agencies who are keen on helping the IDPs should consider giving out cash instead of relief goods.
“Give them the decision on what they need to do with their lives,” she said.
Financial aid will also empower the evacuees on what they really need to buy as help is no longer coming as regular as it should.
She said the displaced residents from Marawi City ”are facing hunger and diseases and leaders of civil-society organizations are sounding the alarm that evacuees are facing stark poverty”.
“After 100 days, we are really saying na it’s really survival of the fittest. People are begging in Lanao,” she said.
Tomawis said the economy in Marawi City, the capital of Lanao del Sur province, ”seemed to have frozen” as that place turned into a battleground between Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-inspired militants and the government forces since May 23.
“When you freeze Lanao Sur because we already lost the economy in Marawi it definitely contributes to the existing poverty,” Tomawis said.
Since June and July “there are already groups of individuals, mother, father, child, sleeping on streets in Iligan and in other places.”
Tomawis described it as a situation they have never imagined: Maranao people who are known traders and part of the Sultanate culture are people with pride but displaced Maranao residents are now asking for cash aids from non-government organization, including Rescue Ranao team.
”Crisis is existing as the government cannot fully address the needs of all villages affected by the conflict,” said the former commissioner of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission who is also an IDP herself. She said among the lessons they learned from the conflict is the concept of “self-help.”
“You need to go to the office of the agency who will give you aid. Do not wait for them to come to you at the evacuation center, that’s not going to happen,” she said.
Tomawis said evacuees should not act like a victim.
She also appealed to the government that a militarist solution will not solve the crisis in Marawi.
Instead of spending for combat operations, the government should focus on programs geared towards providing better social services for all.
As of Sept. 7, the crisis in Marawi has already resulted to the killing of 45 civilians and 145 government forces.
The military claimed there are 653 enemies killed and has recovered 679 firearms.(davaotoday.com)