Aid sent as 50,000 flee clashes in 3 Mindanao areas
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started to provide humanitarian aid to more than 50,000 people who have been displaced in recent weeks by clashes between government forces and armed groups in Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur, and Maguindanao.
“Despite complex access due to the fighting, the ICRC teams from different offices have been assessing the humanitarian needs on the ground, and have started to provide direct response, working in coordination with other actors, notably the Philippine Red Cross (PRC),” the ICRC said in a statement.
On its website, the ICRC said more than 1,800 families, or around 9,000 people, had been displaced since last week because of fighting between the military and the Islamic State Ranao, also known as the Maute group.
Majority of the displaced families have fled to nearby evacuation centers or sought shelter among relatives in neighboring Marogong and Binidayan towns, which the ICRC hopes to reach next week.
Food rations, hygiene items
The ICRC and the PRC have started distributing half-month food rations as well as household and hygiene items to some 6,500 displaced people in Tubaran and Payawan towns in Lanao del Sur. The ICRC also provided support to rural health units and constructed emergency toilets for the main evacuation centers.
In Maguindanao, the ICRC said it would provide food and household items to around 4,250 displaced people in Datu Saudi, Datu Unsay and Shariff Aguak towns.
Since the end of February, government forces have fought the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters in five towns and adjacent marshlands, forcing at least 39,600 people out of their homes, the ICRC said, quoting the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Should safe access be possible, the ICRC said two hospitals and seven rural health centers would also get medicines and medical supplies, as well as interventions for improved access to water and sanitation.
In Bukidnon town, the ICRC said it had distributed essential household items to 650 displaced people staying in evacuation centers in San Fernando and Malaybalay who had fled from clashes in two villages since February.
The armed clashes and heightened political tension in Mindanao, which remains under martial law, have contributed to the Commission on Elections’ decision to categorize the entire island as an election “hot spot” with the approach of the May 13 midterm polls. —Jerome Aning
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