October 23, 2018
MANILA – One year since fighting officially ended in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, the return home and certainty about the future continue to elude over 65,000 displaced people. They demand urgent action and support to overcome the burden left in the wake of the conflict.
“They struggle every day to make ends meet with whatever help they can get, as uncertainty about their homecoming adds to their worries,” said Meher Khatcherian, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Iligan City. “They deserve support and clarity about the future. Though there have been some positive developments, the people of Marawi had hoped for more to be done by now.”
Whether they are living with relatives, in evacuation centers or in transitional sites, the families that have been displaced do not have regular access to potable water and proper sanitation facilities. Adults lack adequate livelihood opportunities, while their children’s education remains disrupted. Families of people who went missing in Marawi need to be accompanied during the process of clarifying the fate of their missing loved ones.
Having witnessed the plight of the people firsthand since clashes broke out in May 2017, Khatcherian and his team have worked to help the affected people from Marawi, bringing in whatever respite possible. Together with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), the ICRC continues to focus on the evolving needs of the people.
Addressing gaps while awaiting the start of the rehabilitation phase, in coordination with other aid organizations and the authorities, the ICRC and the PRC have distributed cash grants to thousands of returnee families, helping them restore their livelihoods.
Besides this, tools to repair their shelters have been given to residents through the PRC. The authorities have been provided with technical support to ensure smooth functioning and potential expansion of the city’s water network. Assisting the health-care facilities, essential medicines and supplies have been distributed to them in Lanao del Sur.
“But there is one thing that remains a top priority for the displaced families and it’s the need to get clarity about their future so that they can move ahead. After having their lives completely disrupted by the five-month conflict, and their properties destroyed, they need to regain a sense of ownership about their future. Their voices need to be heard,” Khatcherian concluded.
The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization working to prevent and alleviate suffering during armed conflict and other situations of violence. It also visits people detained in relation to the conflict to monitor their treatment and living conditions, and facilitates visits from their families.