MANILA, Philippines?Even as some families have returned home following the fighting that erupted in North Cotabato, the United Nations' World Food Programme on Friday vowed to continue to provide food for at least a month to the estimated 81,000 people displaced due to the firefight.
The additional food aid is equivalent to 400 metric tons of rice worth US$308,000 and targets 13,500 families (about 81,100 persons) both inside and outside evacuation centers. The number is down from the 16,000 families initially identified, as some 35 percent of families have begun to return home.
"WFP's initial emergency food response is well underway and will be sustained to ensure life-saving food support is given to the displaced families, many of whom are elderly, women and young children,? said Stephen Anderson WFP's new Country Director and Representative.
?Commencing Monday 11 August, WFP has so far dispatched 266 tons of rice for 4,210 families in Pikit, 4,046 families for Tulunan, and 432 families for Libungan," he said.
In a statement, the WFP said its staff are currently in the center of the conflict zone conducting "validation assessments to help determine a sustained and targeted response."
"In the current unpredictable security situation, vulnerable victims of these clashes urgently need to receive humanitarian assistance, especially essential food among other complimentary relief items,? Anderson said.
?The important next step will be for WFP to conduct more in-depth assessments together with relevant partners to better quantify the overall magnitude of the needs faced by the affected population and recommend additional support, as necessary. While food assistance is urgently needed in the current life-saving relief phase, it will also need to be sustained throughout the critical livelihood rehabilitation period," he said.
The UN agency said its primary aim in the Philippines is to support the Mindanao peace process by providing food aid to meet urgent needs, as an immediate "peace dividend" for conflict-affected communities.