Photo Credits: Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger
After the Siege
Two years on from the Marawi conflict, displacement and restoring livelihoods remain a key challenge for our teams in the Philippines.
May 22 2019
The Philippines has been hit by a string of crises in the past few years. From the vicious drug war launched by the government in 2016 to the devastation wrought by Super Typhoon Mangkhut (the strongest storm on the planet in 2018) the country has faced a series of complex humanitarian challenges and social issues.
In 2017, the brutal five-month siege of the city of Marawi between insurgents and government security forces claimed the lives of over 1,000 people. Two years later, the fallout of the conflict continues to hamper food security and destroy livelihoods.
Action Against Hunger has worked in the Philippines since 2000, helping communities affected by natural disasters and displaced by conflict. Access to food and clean water remains a big challenge to those most at risk, with more than 20% of Filipino children under the age of five experiencing malnutrition.
THE SIEGE OF MARAWI: RESPONDING TO THE CRISIS
Marawi is on the island of Mindanao, which has been prone to inter-communal violence for decades. The Philippines has a troubled history of armed conflict between the government and various militant groups, uprooting millions from their homes over the last 40 years. In May 2017, a coalition of fighters from Abu Sayyaf, Maute and ISIS-linked soldiers infiltrated and led an attack on the city of Marawi. This started the worst crisis on the island since the end of the Second World War.
The battle for Marawi between insurgents and government forces lasted five months, killing and wounding thousands of civilians. “There was gunfire,” said Sittie, 21, a young mother of two from Marawi who was forced to flee. “I was carrying my children. It was so bad. Everyone was running. I was only able to bring my children’s clothes and bottles with me.”
Two days into the fighting, Action Against Hunger's teams were deployed to nearby Iligan city to assess the situation and determine the urgent humanitarian needs of the affected population. Our mobile teams in surrounding towns near Marawi also distributed food packs and tackled the water and sanitation crisis catalysed by the fighting.
"Our house was burned down," said Hadji Liaoao, whose family owned a shop in Marawi. "You couldn't even recognise that it was once a house. All our merchandise from the shop was looted. Nothing was left."
360,000 people fled the conflict and were then forced into overflowing and congested camps for internally displaced persons.
There were severe food shortages and livelihoods were destroyed. “We no longer have houses in Marawi that we can still call home. Everything is gone,” said Jammalludin Pandi, a charity worker who found himself homeless.
TWO YEARS ON: REBUILDING LIVES
Since May, 2017, the government in Mindanao has imposed martial law. In December 2018, this was extended by a further twelve months as the island's crisis continues and at least 100,000 men, women and children remain displaced after fleeing Marawi. According to a report published recently by Save the Children, 1.8 million children are still living in conflict-affected areas on the island.
Our teams have opened up a new base from which to implement further water, sanitation and hygiene, food security, and disaster risk reduction projects to support those in need. “Action Against Hunger provided a lot of help for the community,” said Sittie holding her little girl. “They have given my family a lot of help. They provided containers for our clothes and new diapers. Before I used to recycle disposable diapers.”
The future remains uncertain for Sittie and thousands of others. “We may have to stay here for a while, maybe for a few years. It’s frightening to go back, and I fear for my children’s safety.”
Despite continued conflict and uncertainty, Action Against Hunger has helped restored people’s livelihoods with support from our programmes.
“The cash grant from Action Against Hunger is a big help for my family,” said Fatima who found refuge in Balindong with her husband Arman and their five children. Her family’s only source of income was Arman’s work as a driver-for-hire. This was not enough for the household. With our help, Fatima was then able to open a small store to increase their income. “I now have money for the daily school expenses of my children,” she said smiling.
After being displaced, Rohaima and Usman, parents of four, returned to Marawi to find their shop reduced to rubble. Following a series of financial management classes, Rohaima and Usman received a cash grant which has helped them rebuild their old life.
“I am very happy for the support I received to put up my eatery. If not for this, my family would not have any income at all. I am very grateful,” said Rohaima.
Jamlludin, the charity worker who became homeless during the violence was still hopeful about the future. “I hope this never happens again, not only in Mindanao, but across the Philippines,” he said. “We’re really grateful for all the support from Action Against Hunger. Now, we must keep helping each other. My simple hope, and the hope of my wife, is to return home."
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