A senior United Nations relief official today voiced concern over the plight of hundreds of thousands of people uprooted from their homes by conflict in the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, saying that many are also enduring the effects of natural disasters, including floods.
“I am deeply concerned by the impact of cycles of displacement, particularly those caused by armed confrontations between Government forces and armed groups, and clan fighting,” Catherine Bragg, the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs told reporters in Manila, the capital, before concluding her five-day visit to the country.
“I call on all parties to conflict to spare people from the effects of violence. The rights of the displaced, and others affected by conflict, must be respected,” said Ms. Bragg who is also the deputy UN Emergency Relief Coordinator. Local authorities and relief agencies in Mindanao estimate that nearly 700,000 people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance, particularly in conflict and flood-affected areas, she said.
Ms. Bragg visited communities in Mindanao where people have been displaced repeatedly over several years and saw projects where they are being assisted. She also visited people who were able to return to their home areas recently.
“During visits to several humanitarian projects in Maguindanao province, I saw tangible progress. At the same time, I also saw that the needs and vulnerabilities of people are serious, and that the situation remains fragile.
“In Datu Piang, I spoke to a woman with four children, who had been displaced by armed conflict twice in the last five years. Recurring floods had added to her plight. Although her family’s original home was only seven kilometres away, the security situation meant they could not return, and their old family home no longer existed.”
The woman and her family are currently receiving assistance from UN agencies and partners, but their situation remains uncertain, she said.
“The needs of vulnerable people in Mindanao are complex, and we must address them through a concerted effort,” said Ms. Bragg. “All these field visits gave me a clearer sense of the magnitude of the challenges we face in Mindanao and the very good work being done by aid agencies to provide humanitarian assistance.”
UN agencies and partners have this year appealed for $33.3 million for the Humanitarian Action Plan for Mindanao, which has so far received 54 per cent of the required funding, according to Ms. Bragg. Another action plan for $37.9 million will be launched next year, with priority being given to protection activities.
“The United Nations and its partners stand ready to support Government-led responses to emergency situations. Emergency responders must, however, be granted unhindered independent access, and allowed to undertake essential humanitarian assessments, particularly of the needs of newly displaced people in insecure areas.
“People in the Philippines have shown remarkable resilience in the face of challenges generated by natural disasters and conflict. But we must work on a much more comprehensive approach in addressing the consequences as well as the root causes and prepare for future natural disasters and conflict scenarios,” Ms. Bragg added.