Number of refugees rises as fighting continues in Mindanao

Residents of Marawi City in the southern Philippines seek shelter in one of the evacuation centers set up by the government in nearby Iligan City. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Tens of thousands have fled Marawi violence, agencies scramble to provide aid to help displaced

Mark Saludes, Iligan City 
UCAN Philippines
May 29, 2017

The number of people displaced in the southern Philippines continues to rise as military operations against gunmen claiming to have links with the so-called Islamic State entered its sixth day.

“We expect the number to increase. We are expecting more cases of displacement,” said McMillan Lucman of the autonomous government of the Muslim region of Mindanao.

As of May 28, the crisis management committee of the region has recorded more than 67,800 individuals had fled fighting in the southern city of Marawi to 38 evacuation sites while about 16,600 sought shelter in private homes.

Hadja Pombaen Kader of the social welfare office of the Muslim region said “home-based” refugees are staying with friends and relatives.

“They go to the evacuation centers during the day to collect food aid and relief goods,” Kader told ucanews.com.

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao has already released US$44,000 worth of assistance to affected families in the region.

Caritas Philippines, the social action arm of the country’s Catholic bishops, has prepared at least 3,000 food packs and emergency aid goods for distribution.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive director of Caritas Philippines, said his office and other dioceses across the country are also preparing to send relief goods to affected communities.

The priest called on faith-based groups to help mitigate the impact of the conflict and the displacement of people.

Father Gariguez said the church would use funds collected from its Lenten program to help affected Muslim and Christian communities.

The priest, however, said that the church aid agency will only “supplement” the government’s efforts.

“In case the need becomes big, we are prepared to ask help from the Caritas Confederation,” he said, adding that his office is still “assessing the situation.”

The priest appealed to the government not only to focus on war but also on the people.

“It should not just be a military aspect but a humanitarian response as well,” said Father Gariguez.

Most refugees have fled to the city of Iligan, according to social welfare secretary Judy Taguiwalo.

“They number more than the [internally displace people] in evacuation centers,” she said, adding that assistance should be given to evacuees staying with their relatives.

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