12,500 who fled from Lanao Sur fighting need help – ICRC
OZAMIZ CITY – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has expressed concern over the fate of thousands of people who were displaced from their homes and communities due to recent armed hostilities in Butig, Lanao del Sur.
In a statement, the ICRC counted 12,500 evacuees, based on an assessment it made in coordination with community leaders, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and non-government organizations for its relief operations.
The ICRC added that the families need help in meeting their basic needs.
“Now, many of the displaced are living with relatives and depend heavily on their kin and the authorities, as they are still too afraid to go back home,” said Dominic Earnshaw, head of the ICRC office in Cotabato.
Fighting between government forces and a local terrorist band, now known as the Maute group, first erupted last February after the latter harassed a military installation, driving thousands of Butig residents away from their homes and communities.
At that time, many Moro communities in the province were jittery over the shelving, by Congress, of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that could have carried out major portions of a peace pact between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Earnshaw noted that some of the evacuees were able to return in April, “and just when they started planting a new crop, they were forced to flee their homes again in May, when hostilities resumed.”
Earnshaw added that “civilian houses were also destroyed in the fighting,” making it impossible at this point for the families to return to normal life.
“We ask all sides in the conflict to exercise utmost precaution to protect civilians and their property,” he appealed.
Between June 8 and July 2, the ICRC, together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), provided food and household items to around 12,500 people displaced from Butig to augment the aid provided by the government. The distributions took place in Butig, in neighboring Lumbayanague town, and in Marawi City.
Each displaced family received 25 kilograms of rice, 12 tins of sardines, two liters of cooking oil, two liters of soy sauce, two kilograms of sugar, 500 grams of salt, and essential household items including two blankets, two mosquito nets, one sleeping mat, and one hygiene kit. SFM
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