ASIA-PACIFIC feature story for the Philippines

© UNICEF Philippines/2009/Baraguir

Conflict-affected children participate in an after-school activity in a centre for the displaced in Lumpong. It is 1 of 61 child-friendly spaces supported by UNICEF and Community and Family Services International.


LUMPONG, the Philippines, 8 September 2009 – “When it’s time to go to class, the sun is just above the trees,” says Neneng, a studious nine-year-old originally from Tugal but now living in Lumpong Internally Displaced Persons Evacuation Centre. “The teacher says we start at 8:30 a.m. We collect our things and brush our teeth and head off to the classroom.” 

Neneng used to study in the elementary school in Tugal, a town in Mindanao.  But in late August 2008 a conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the armed forces of the Philippines erupted in Tugal and other areas in Mindanao, a southern set of islands. The 2008 conflict spilled over into 2009, displacing hundreds of thousands of people and destroying thousands of homes, schools and other infrastructure.  More than 9,000 fled to the Lumpong evacuation centre for safety and shelter. 

Among the first responders to assist the newly displaced people were the Government of the Philippines1 along with UNICEF and its long-standing partner, Community and Family Services International.  Recognizing the need for children to restore a sense of normalcy as soon as possible and continue their education, together UNICEF and Community and Family Services International quickly established 61 child-friendly spaces - which provide educational and recreational activities and psychosocial support - for all primary school-aged children and 61 temporary classrooms for the older students. 

This coordinated effort paid off.  Today, more than 8,000 children daily go to the child-friendly spaces and temporary learning structures in Lumpong and 59 other evacuation centres.  For Neneng and other students, it is also a quality education - the school in Lumpong evacuation centre is close to being fully accredited.

This collaboration in time of a humanitarian crisis is just one example of how the nine-year long partnership between UNICEF and Community and Family Services International results in well-designed, timely and quality emergency response.  UNICEF brings to the partnership technical capacity and coordination experience within the humanitarian sector at the global and national level, while Community and Family Services International, headquartered in the Philippines, provides additional expertise and long-term experience in local communities.

Community and Family Services International Executive Director Steven Muncy confirms the value of partnership with UNICEF: “I am impressed with the manner in which UNICEF relates to partners in its regular consultation, joint field visits by policymakers, collaboration on proposals, and close cooperation in the planning of project implementation.”  

In 2010, it is hoped the programme will expand to reach more than 30,000 children a day in the other evacuation centres as well as schools currently underserved and under-resourced as a result of the conflict.

Neneng has been in the Lumpong evacuation centre for a year now, and she will soon complete the third grade.  Her dream to be a nurse is one step closer, thanks to humanitarian aid partners working together. 

UNICEF in the Philippines coordinates closely with the Government of the Philippines and more than 80 partners in the delivery of emergency health, child protection, education, nutrition, and water, sanitation and hygiene assistance.

1 Key Government partners include but are not exclusive of the Department of Social Welfare, Department of Education, Department of Health and the National Disaster Coordinating Council