ICRC seeks assistance for Lanao evacuees
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 town in Lanao del Sur province.
“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 province.
Fighting broke out between government forces and local terrorists known as the Maute group in February, driving thousands of Butig residents away from their homes and communities. The group was behind the attacks on military installations, authorities said.
Lack of BBL
At that time, many Moro communities in the province were jittery due to the non-enactment of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that could have carried out major portions of a peace pact between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In a statement, the ICRC said the evacuees numbered some 12,500 based on an assessment it made in coordination with community leaders, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and nongovernment organizations involved in relief operations.
The agency said the families needed help in meeting their basic needs.
Earnshaw noted that some of the evacuees were able to return in April. “Just when they started planting new crops, they were forced to flee their homes again in May, when hostilities resumed.”
Civilian houses destroyed
One reason families are not yet ready to return is that “civilian houses were also destroyed in the fighting,” he said.
“We ask all sides in the conflict to exercise utmost precaution to protect civilians and their property,” the ICRC official appealed.
Between June 8 and July 2, the ICRC, together with the Philippine Red Cross, provided food and household items to those displaced to augment the aid provided by the government. The distributions took place in Butig, in neighboring Lumbayanague town, and in Marawi City.
Each family received 25 kilograms of rice, 12 tins of sardines, two liters of cooking oil, two liters of soy sauce, two kilos of sugar, 500 grams of salt, and essential household items, including two blankets, two mosquito nets, one sleeping mat and one hygiene kit.
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