3-year-old boy latest fatality in Zamboanga City evacuation centers
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – A three-year-old boy became the latest casualty of malnutrition and illnesses in evacuation centers here since the massive displacements resulting from the Moro National Liberation Front siege took place in September 2013.
The death of Ferji Usman, a Badjao child at the Cawa Cawa evacuation center from malnutrition on Saturday, brought to 138 the number of deaths recorded among internally displaced persons here, Dr. Rodelin Agbulos, the city health officer, confirmed on Monday.
The boy had been dead for three days already when the Philippine Daily Inquirer saw his cadaver, placed inside a small wooden box. It has been emitting foul odor by then but the mother, Hadiya, said she could not have him buried.
“Alam sin pakubol (I have no money to bury him),” she told the Inquirer.
Hadiya said her family has even been struggling to put food on the table.
Payana Mohammad, the boy’s grandmother said they reported Ferji’s death to the camp manager as early Saturday but they were told to return Monday.
Later on Monday, the Inquirer learned that the boy’s family was finally given P3,000 in burial assistance.
When contacted anew, Payana said they used the money to buy white cloth for the shroud, labor fee for grave diggers, P1,500 for the burial ground and token for the imam.
Agbulos said while some evacuees were still dying of diseases – such as pneumonia – and malnutrition, “there had been a dramatic drop in mortality rate since February this year.”
He said in February, at least 22 people died while in March, 16 died.
In April, only two died and Agbulos said decongesting the evacuation centers helped in bringing down the death toll.
In Cawa-Cawa for example, there are now only 300 families remaining, down from 800 families a few months back.
“Last April, a big bulk of the IDPs at Cawa-Cawa was relocated to Masepla and we see that relocation and decongestion are the solutions in reducing mortality in the evacuation centers,” Agbulos said.
More than 100,000 persons were displaced in September 2013 when followers of Nur Misuari went on rampage here. Dozens of people – combatants and civilians alike – were killed in subsequent gun battles and hostage-taking.
The gunmen were eventually subdued and many of them had been charged with murder and violation of international human rights law.
Recently, nearly 300 suspected Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) followers charged in connection with the violence were transferred to prison facilities in Manila.
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