UNICEF releases US $500,000 to assist children affected by conflict in Mindanao.
Manila, 3rd October 2008.
Working closely with government agencies and NGOs, the money will be spent ensuring the safety and unity of displaced families, creating child-safe spaces in the evacuation centres and also ensuring access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF country representative, said:
“It is estimated that half a million people have been affected by the latest fighting in Mindanao, and we know that more than half of these will be children. After a recent UN assessment mission, we have determined a need to urgently focus on creating a stable, secure environment for children as well as the water and sanitation facilities in the evacuation centres. ”
The assessment mission identified that a number of parents noted signs of distress among their young children as a result of prolonged warfare and displacement, so UNICEF will be focusing on creating child friendly spaces and mobilizing community support for children.
“These children may have witnessed killing or injuring of family members or may even have been attacked themselves. Even the distress of having to suddenly leave their homes and belongings can be very upsetting for young children. By creating a space where children feel safe, and by establishing normal routines like schooling and play activities, UNICEF is helping these children to recover’’, Tobin said.
The UN assessment mission also found that due to poor access to clean water, and insufficient latrines and washing areas, there had been an increased incidence of diarrhea, which can be fatal for young children. The situation is compounded by the fact that ARMM is already highly disadvantaged with only 33% of families having access to safe, clean water.
UNICEF will be providing safe water in the evacuation centres, as well as providing latrines and bath cubicles, especially for girls and women. Children will be taught good hygiene practice too, so the benefits of these efforts will be more long-lasting.
With the end of Ramadhan, there is a fear amongst some communities that fighting will again escalate.
“UNICEF strongly urges all parties in the conflict to take utmost care to uphold the rights of civilians especially women and children, including allowing their safe passage out of conflict zones. At least ten children have already died in the latest spate of fighting, and that is ten too many. We also urge all parties to recognize that regardless of their role in the conflict, children should be treated as victims and not perpetrators, and their rights to development and protection upheld.”