The Displaced People

"Life goes on, and one hopes, it won’t be too long when these people are out of the camps."

From July 31 to August 5, I joined a humanitarian response team of the Community and Family Services International to see the condition of Maranaos displaced by the Maute/ISIS siege of the city.  We saw evacuation centers in Barangay Boti in Marawi; in Saguiaran; and a newly put up tent city at the back of a madrassah in Balo’i. We also distributed rice rations to over a hundred recipients in Piagapo. On our last day, we visited evacuees who have sought refuge in homes in Barangay Tubod in Iligan.

The evacuation centers we saw were well managed. The camp manager is usually an articulate young volunteer, who knew what s/he was doing and what was needed. The camps are highly overcrowded, but the demarcated spaces gave a semblance of order. Room leaders have also been assigned, and committees on garbage, security, and relief distribution have been organized.

The resilience of the Maranao has sprouted in a few instances. In Boti, men and women have cleaned up the fields and are ready to plant, while in the the Balo’i tent city, some enterprising women have started sari-sari stores within their tents.

The elderly folk worry about the idle youth. While pre- and grade-school children are given psychosocial support, older ones are often left out. The youth population (15-24 years old) ranged from 11 percent to 17 percent of camps’ population. Leaders feel that TESDA should come over and give skills training so that trained youth can be employed when the situation normalizes, otherwise, they run the risk of falling into the sway of the Maute group.

Among the three types of internally displaced people – those in evacuation centers, those in tents, and those in homes – the latter appear to have received the least support from DSWD and other service providers. Initially, this was because they cannot be identified, but now homes in Iligan who have evacuees display green flags to show that they, too, need assistance.

Life goes on, and one hopes, it won’t be too long when these people are out of the camps.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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