Philippines – Tens of thousands displaced in the south as violence continues
Manila, 25 September 2013 – The situation in Zamboanga city, southern Philippines, and its surrounding areas is now a humanitarian crisis, as tens of thousands of people remain forcibly displaced.
The United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, Luiza Carvalho, expressed her concerns for the plight of the displaced people. "We are increasingly alarmed by the situation and the growing needs of people caught up with violence," said Ms. Carvalho. "We are particularly concerned for the most vulnerable, especially the well-being of women and children."
The ongoing standoff between a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Government forces has left approximately 132 people dead, with roughly 158,000 people affected and over 10,000 homes destroyed. Estimates suggest over 109,000 people are displaced in Zamboanga city and almost 19,000 displaced in Basilan province.
People are struggling to survive with around 70,000 staying in the main sports complex in Zamboanga city, in desperately overcrowded conditions and insufficient sanitation facilities. There is a real risk of a disease outbreak with food, drinking water, health services, cooking utensils, tents and other necessities required. The health and protection of women and children is of increasing concern.
The Humanitarian Coordinator pointed out the significance of timely and targeted aid for the displaced, many of whom have lost their homes and livelihood.
"We are particularly concerned that aid is delivered in an impartial manner, with the needs of the most vulnerable met and those outside the evacuation centres not forgotten." She continued, "We acknowledge Government efforts to respond and provide assistance to innocent civilians." The humanitarian community reiterates its support to the Government to protect the lives and well-being of civilians and remains committed to the humanitarian response.
"The United Nations calls on all parties to uphold the principles of impartiality, humanity, neutrality and independence, enshrined in International Humanitarian Law," Ms. Carvalho said. Adding, "We expect that all humanitarian workers providing support to the victims of violence are protected and respected, and their safety is ensured by all actors."