Philippines

Philippines: Conditions worsen for displaced people in Maguindanao

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Armed clashes have continued in Datu Piang and Mamasapano, in the province of Maguindanao, with government troops using sporadic artillery and aerial bombardment against Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) fighters. The fighting has resulted in further displacement of civilians and discouraged people already displaced - estimated at 66,000 in Maguindanao alone - from returning to their homes. In view of the fact that the government will revive peace talks with the MILF only on the condition that there is disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and that the MILF refuses to disarm prior to a final peace agreement, long-term displacement is likely.

"Because large numbers of displaced people are crowded together, they are vulnerable to diarrhoea and respiratory infection," said Dr Robert Paterson, an ICRC medical delegate in the Philippines. "Three deaths due to diarrhoea have been reported in Libutan and Mamasapano - both in Maguindanao province. In response, Philippine Red Cross and ICRC field workers are now supporting local health authorities in their efforts to provide health care for affected communities."

The ICRC's immediate response to the health situation in Libutan, according to Jean-Daniel Tauxe, head of the ICRC delegation in the Philippines, "is an example of a shift in strategy to focus on the areas in Central Mindanao where civilians are most in need, i.e. the areas directly affected by the conflict."

Assistance field operations would be impossible without the close cooperation of the Philippine National Red Cross and its provincial and city chapters in Mindanao. The distribution of food and household items, installation of water and sanitation services and implementation of health support programmes have been carried out with the participation of Red Cross volunteers drawn from all over Mindanao and the national headquarters in Manila. Currently, joint ICRC/Philippine National Red Cross teams are conducting a second round of aid distributions for people who have been displaced for well over a month and who remain in evacuation centres out of fear of renewed violence in their home communities. Seven to eight teams go out to the field every day.

In addition to its existing Mindanao offices, in Davao and ZamboangaCity, the ICRC has set up an office in CotabatoCity to facilitate close monitoring of the situation in Central Mindanao.

The emergency operation of the ICRC and the Philippine National Red Cross complements action the government is taking through the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the Department of Social Welfare and Development at regional, provincial and municipal levels.

The ICRC regularly consults with other international agencies and non-governmental organizations operating in Central Mindanao such as Médecins Sans Frontières, Oxfam, the World Food Programme and Action Against Hunger, among others.

ICRC in Mindanao: Facts and figures (as at 11. 11. 2008)

Since 12 August, the ICRC has:

- doubled its personnel in Mindanao, where it now has 70 staff members, including 54 national and 16 expatriate staff.

- delivered food to 108,429 individuals in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, Lanao del Norte and Sarangani, more than 10,000 of whom received a second distribution;

- distributed essential household items, such as hygiene kits, soap, towels, basins, mats and mosquito nets to 52,733 individuals;

- provided clean water and sanitation for more than 75,000 people in North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Norte; this involved building or protecting 21 shallow wells equipped with hand pumps, installing eight water reservoirs and tap stands, repairing a water distribution network in a school, building a water-tank platform and installing a supply line in a school, improving a water network in a village, covering the cost of water and electricity for wells supplying three evacuation centres, upgrading water delivery systems for two evacuation centres, emptying at least five septic tanks and building 118 latrines;

- distributed medical supplies, including vaccines, to the following health facilities:

Munai rural health unit (RHU): infusion sets and essential medicines for 1,000 people for three months

Iligan hospital: one infusion set and two dressing kits

Cotabato regional medical centre: war-wounded kits for 50 patients;

- also provided medical supplies for:

Pikit primary hospital

Libungan Torreta RHU in Pigkawayan, North Cotabato

Libutan and Datu Piang RHUs in Maguindanao;

- provided around 100 people, including war-wounded and displaced people, with individual medical assistance;

- set up a warehouse in Davao from which it can deliver up to 3,000 food rations or kits of household essentials every day;

- held dissemination sessions on international humanitarian law with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the Philippine National Police, the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU), the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), the MILF and the New People's Army (NPA);

- monitored the effects of the hostilities on the civilian population and maintained regular dialogue with the parties to the conflict on protecting civilians.

For further information, please contact:

Roland Bigler, ICRC Manila, tel. +63 918 907 2125
Carla Haddad Mardini, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 24 05 or +41 79 217 32 26
or visit our website: www.icrc.org