SAGUIARAN / LANAO DEL SUR / PHILIPPINES — Three child refugees in jampacked evacuation centers have succumbed to severe dehydration as health issues continue to hound Marawi residents seeking refuge in other evacuation centers.
“We have three deaths here all because of severe dehydration. Cases of diarrhea and pneumonia are going up,” Dr. Nariman Lao Taha, one of the volunteer doctors told newsmen Monday. She said there are also sick children in other evacuation sites.
Authorities said close to 200,000 residents who fled Marawi are either housed in open courts here, in Iligan City, at the provincial capitol complex in Marawi City, or joined relatives in safer towns of Lanao del Sur and Norte and Misamis Oriental.
Congestion and lack of sanitary facilities, medicine, potable water and food aggravated the cases of dehydration, diarrhea and pneumonia in evacuation camps and the number of evacuees increase as rescuers continue to retrieve survivors from the rubbles of Marawi.
Conjugal corners in some evacuation centers have been put up for couples in front or adjacent to prayer areas for lack of available space.
Aside from physical discomforts, most of the young refugees and some female adults have been suffering from trauma as a result of the fighting that entered its 22nd day yesterday. Red Cross volunteers suggest prompt psycho-social interventions in evacuation camps.
“Unabated trauma plus risks from communicable diseases could cause more deaths in refugee camps,” a Red Cross volunteer physician told reporters Monday.
BEG FOR CASH
And because of insufficient supply of water, food and other necessities, some displaced families especially those staying with their relatives admit resorting to begging in the streets of Iligan City and elsewhere for cash.
“Maranaw beggars have proliferated in Iligan City. The Moro People of the Lake are a proud people – so proud that if they can help it they’ll never go to an evacuation center but rather stay with relatives for refuge. We’ve seen more than 50 refugees staying in one small apartment owned by a relative. But now, our people have been reduced to begging in malls and streets,” Bobby Alonto-Marohombsar said in his Facebook post.
A displaced mother of six young kids approached this writer Tuesday and asked for “sadaqa” (alms). She broke into tears upon receiving P1,000, saying the amount could buy “ukay-ukay” (second-hand clothes) and other basic items for her and her six children. She said they left “everything” in Marawi when they evacuated.
Those who opted to stay at home in relatively safe areas of Marawi City like the Mindanao State University main campus complain about unreasonable increase in the price of rice which is being sold at P250 a kilo.
“It’s like gold,” an MSU female employee told the Manila Bulletin, even as she urged authorities to “enforce martial law on opportunist traders and put them behind bars.”
INCREASED FINANCIAL HELP
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) yesterday said they have increased financial assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Marawi City from the one-time cash assistance of P1,000 to P4,000 which will be coursed through the DSWD’s Protective Services Program.
DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said there is urgent and continuing need to respond to the needs of thousands of IDPs from Marawi City.
“Our Muslim brothers and sisters from Marawi are supposed to be observing the holy season of Ramadan, but their normal way of life has been disrupted because of the armed conflict. They cannot fully observe the rites and eat the traditional meals because most of them have been displaced – with many now staying in the evacuation centers. We have to give what assistance we can to help them cope with the situation,” Taguiwalo said.
Ramadan is the ninth month in the Muslim year when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from dusk to dawn.
Taguiwalo pointed out that the contents of a DSWD family food pack – six kilos of rice, three cans of corned beef, three cans of sardines, and six packs of ready-to-drink coffee – are not enough or suitable for Ramadan.
“We have decided to provide each affected family with P1,000 apart from the family food packs and all the other food donations that we are receiving on their behalf. The families can use the money to buy food that is more suitable for them when they break their fast at sunset,” she said.
“As for the remaining P4,000, it will be released to each family when it is already safe for them to return to Marawi. We are also preparing other actions to help them when they resume their lives in their communities. Other DSWD programs will be made accessible to them,” she added.
The cash assistance will be released to the IDPs in the DSWD off-site Serbisyo locations or at the DSWD field offices.
These DSWD off-site Serbisyo locations will be determined by the regional directors or their duly authorized representatives in their respective jurisdictions and will include any of the following: public schools, barangay halls, day care centers, multi-purpose halls, covered courts or evacuation centers. The venue or location will put primary consideration to the safety and well-being of the beneficiaries and DSWD service providers.
The DSWD field offices are also tasked to keep and maintain detailed records of services rendered or provided on both physical and financial aspects of the services.
The monitoring will be conducted by the field offices on a daily basis, until the IDPs return to their homes.
Meanwhile, Armed Forces spokesperson Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla ruled out the bombing of mosques to flush militants.
“We categorically state that we have not bombed and will not bomb any mosque in Marawi,” Padilla said during the “Mindanao Hour” briefing in Malacañang.
“The Armed Forces leadership is firm in its commitment to use other options that would flush out this Maute group from these places of worship that they have converted into machine gun and sniper nest, defensive position, and arsenals for their war activities,” he said.
Padilla expressed confidence that they will “retake the remaining portion of Marawi occupied by these terrorists, neutralize the remaining members who continue to hold out and begin the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the city,” using other options.
He assured the Muslim community that the military will not go down to the level of terrorists who desecrate the mosques to lure troops into responding to their violent actions in the same manner.
Source: Manila Bulletin