About 16,100 people displaced in transition sites of Zamboanga struggle to cope with water shortages.
Over 56,000 people are displaced by clashes between the military and armed groups in central Mindanao.
Local civil society steps up efforts to engage the elderly and disabled people in crises.
Philippine Congress passes the first bill in Asia to protect children in emergencies.
Drought hits Zamboanga IDPs
Water rationing tightened amid persisting drought in Zamboanga City
The Zamboanga City Water District tightened its water rationing schedule on 27 January due to an alarming drop in the water inflow at Tumaga river reservoir – the city’s main water source. Daily distribution of water has since been cut down to 8 hours from the previous 12 hours.
The citywide water shortage is also affecting about 16,100 internally displaced people (IDPs) who are staying in 12 transition sites across Zamboanga City. They have been waiting for permanent homes for almost two and half years since they were uprooted by the September 2013 fighting between government forces and a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front. In addition, an estimated 7,700 “home-based” IDPs are staying with relatives and friends or renting temporary homes.
Water shortage takes a toll on the most vulnerable among the IDPs
Midzfar Pulalon lives in Mampang transition site – the largest IDP site located in the outskirts of Zamboanga City. Now 34 years old, he was disabled by polio at an early age.
Midzfar used to live in Rio Hondo, a coastal area near the city centre where he sold cell phones for a living, until he lost both his home and income to the September 2013 fighting.
The city’s daily water rations do not cover the needs of over 7,600 IDPs in Mampang transition site. Even with his disability, Midzfar endured waiting in line for the delivery of water. However, with less water available at the site now, he has resorted to buying water from the host community. With the little money sent from his sister who works abroad, Midzfar pays PhP25 (US$.50) a day to buy 100 litres of water needed for his family. The price of water may rise as growing demand outstrips supply. He fears that he might not be able to afford water throughout the drought which is predicted to last until June.
The City Water District is mobilising four water trucks to supply water to all transition sites.
It is planning to procure additional trucks but they are not likely to arrive before April. To address the gap, the Philippine Red Cross will provide additional water tanker truck to augment the city’s water distribution to the IDPs until May. Meanwhile, other humanitarian agencies on the ground including CFSI, FAO, ILO, IOM and UNHCR continue to support the authorities with providing camp management, protection, civil documentation, livelihood and community engagement assistance to the IDPs.
Impacts of El Niño on food security and health
While the prevailing El Niño has affected large areas of the Philippines, the most severe damage to agriculture is concentrated in Mindanao. About half of the total 194,000 hectares of affected farm areas are in Mindanao, 87 per cent of which have no chance of recovery.
In Zamboanga City alone, agricultural losses attributed to El Niño rose to almost PhP17.7 million ($373,000) as of 5 February, affecting over 900 farmers with 860 hectares of agricultural lands, the vast majority of which (780 hectares) have no chance of recovery, according to the Office of the City Agriculturist. As the drought persists, the City Agriculturalist predicts that up to 30 per cent or 3,500 hectares of the city’s rice fields may be lost in the coming months. To mitigate the situation, the authorities are providing affected farmers with a rice variety that can grow in saline or dry conditions and instructing them to adopt quick-turnaround planting of vegetables.
The City Health Office is concerned that water shortages may raise the risks of diarrhoea and other waterborne diseases among children and other vulnerable groups. From December 2015 to January 2016, six IDPs reportedly died, bringing up the total deaths among the IDPs since the September 2013 conflict to 293.
Alerted by the mounting impact of El Niño on food security and health of the IDPs, the city authorities will conduct a rapid nutrition survey in all transition sites to monitor and address malnutrition. They will also resume food distribution to all transition sites from March for 11 months, accompanied by provision of kitchen sets and cash assistance.
However, temporary assistance to address the immediate needs of the IDPs alone cannot provide durable solutions to their displacement. As of mid-February, just over 2,000 out of the planned 6,500 permanent housing units under the government’s Zamboanga Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (Z3R) were completed. With an increasing delay in the Z3R implementation timeline, aid agencies fear that most of the remaining IDPs may be left in limbo into the third year of displacement.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.