Gov’t aid skips ‘home-based’ Zambo evacuees
ZAMBOANGA CITY—What about families who were displaced by fighting in the city in 2013 but have been sheltered by relatives or are renting spaces instead of staying in transitory houses?
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) lamented that the government’s rehabilitation efforts had failed to include these home-based “internally displaced persons” (IDPs) after the siege by followers of Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founder Nur Misuari.
They numbered 11,282 when the agency conducted a profiling of evacuees last year, said Brenda Escalante, UNCHR assistant protection officer.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development in Western Mindanao has counted 3,055 families, or 17,209 people, who had been living in 12 transitory sites here and awaiting permanent houses to be built for them, said its director, Zenaida Arevalo.
28,000 still waiting
With the combined numbers of home-based people and those staying in the sites, some 28,000 are still waiting to be resettled, Escalante said.
During the fighting between government forces and the MNLF members in 2013, at least 200 people were killed and dozens were wounded. Some 10,000 houses in seven villages were razed, sending thousands packing to an evacuation center set up in the city stadium.
Conditions deteriorated to subhuman levels at one point during their stay at the Don Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex at the heart of the city, according to international observers. Months later, death due to diseases stalked the survivors, killing at least 200 more, many of them children.
The city government has started moving the IDPs to the 12 transitory sites it had put up. But a UNCHR report said government support was also lacking in the sites.
“The situation of 146 families in Lupa-lupa (Mariki) and 83 families in Mariki Elementary School, who were relocated from the grandstand, remain without adequate support. Some IDPs continue to stay in congested makeshift dwellings and tents occupied by at least 4-5 families, while others resort to taking refuge in partially damaged houses,” the report reads.
6,000 permanent homes
Mayor Maria Isabelle Salazar said the city government was doing its best to provide their basic needs ad was rushing completion of more than 6,000 permanent homes for them.
As to the home-based evacuees, Salazar said she had yet to validate the report of their actual number.
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