|© UNICEF Video|
|A young mother in Maguindanao brings her children to get essential services during the Days of Peace campaign in the southern Philippines.|
By Anwulika Okafor
NEW YORK, USA, 9 May 2007 – For decades, an often violent battle between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has raged in the picturesque countryside of the southern Philippines. The conflict has devastated thousands of villages, leaving children without access to essential services.
But in a historic agreement between UNICEF and the MILF, fighting was suspended recently in conflict-affected areas so that health workers could reach this overlooked population in a campaign known as ‘Days of Peace’.
During the two-week effort, which started in mid-April, children and their families in 700 remote villages received immunizations, micronutrient supplementation, counselling and other basic care. And in an unprecedented show of support, the MILF mobilized its own ranks to help relief workers bring these services to the most disadvantaged communities.
|Dr. Abbas Candao (left), Chairman of the Bangsamoro Development Agency, and Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Representative in the Philippines, sign agreement to conduct the Days of Peace campaign in Mindanao.|
Peace is key to development
“The chairman of the MILF signed a joint communiqué with the UNICEF to support the activity,” said Dr. Danda Juanday, Executive Director of the Bangsamoro Development Agency – the MILF agency mandated to carry out humanitarian, rehabilitation and development programmes in conflict-affected areas.
Dr. Juanday went on to say that discussions are under way to sustain the Days of Peace services on a continuing basis.
“We would like to see the campaign...tied up to the ongoing peace process between the MILF and Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” said MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim. “We would like our people to accept the programme as among the fruits of the ongoing peace process.”
UNICEF’s Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Nicholas Alipui, added: “Peace-building efforts will not succeed if we fail to deliver the basic services that families need. There can be no lasting peace if it is not linked with development.”
|© UNICEF Video|
|UNICEF Representative in the Philippines Dr. Nicholas Alipui immunizes a child during the Days of Peace campaign.|
Children in desperate need
Local officials, villagers and health care providers worked together in the weeks leading up to the Days of Peace drive, spreading awareness and offering encouragement in the target communities.
Dr. Alipui led a field mission to remote villages in Mindanao during the campaign. His team was able to reach children who had not previously received regular immunization and other services due to insecurity in the area.
Members of the popular Filipino rock band Bamboo also joined aid workers in the region to support the campaign and assist children in the villages, many of whom were found in desperate need. “We knew we were going to see children who needed help, but nothing could have prepared us for the reality of seeing such deprivation,” said lead singer Bamboo Manalac.
Building capacity for the future
Two more Days of Peace campaigns are in the works for the Philippines – one in July and another in October. Like the recent effort, they will mobilize teams to deliver health, nutrition and other services.
“The Days of Peace campaign is not just a series of special missions,” said Dr. Alipui. “We intend to help re-establish routine coverage of conflict areas.
“Local people will be trained to provide many of the essential services on their own,” he explained. “The goal is to restore the routine provision of essential services for children through capacity-building and provision of supplies within the next several months, with a focus on the communities most affected by conflict.”
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