UN health agency urges support for displaced civilians in southern Philippines

4 September 2009

The United Nations health agency today said it is seeking nearly $1 million to provide assistance to hundreds of thousands of people displaced from their homes on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

“Urgent financial and material support is needed to strengthen the health response to this humanitarian crisis and reduce the suffering so many people are facing,” said Soe Nyunt-U, Country Representative of the World Health Organization (WHO).

More than 300 people have reportedly been killed since clashes began in August 2008 between Government troops and separatists in the area, WHO stated in a news release. In addition, some 350,000 to 400,000 people have been displaced, a quarter of whom are housed in 164 camps in six provinces, while the rest are staying with relatives or taking refuge in makeshift shelter.

Recent flooding has made matters worse by displacing more people, according to the agency. Local authorities estimate that some 300,000 people had been affected by monsoon rains, and more can be expected with the typhoon season approaching.

The funds being sought – about $914,000 – will help to ensure the provision of health services to internally displaced persons (IDPs), who are facing various health risks ranging from malnutrition and diarrhoea to respiratory illness and psychosocial trauma.

WHO plans to establish a field office in Mindanao, control communicable disease outbreaks by supplying medicines and other emergency health provisions to local health providers, and recruit new health staff or strengthen capacities of existing staff to improve the delivery of basic health services.

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