The escalation of violence in Maguindanao forces civilians to flee

 A group of children in the streets of Philippines  A group of children in the streets of Philippines Photo by Rainier Ridao on Unsplash

12 April 2021

Since 18 March 2021, more than 66,000 civilians in the southern Maguindanao province have fled their homes

In the last weeks fighting and mortar shell exchanges between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) intensified, leading to the displacement of around 66,000 persons  in the  Maguindanao province in the southern Philippines. On 18 March 2021,  a confrontation between the parties occurred around a market in the Municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan and spilled over to neighbouring villages, through which an estimated 27,500 children were displaced. According to humanitarian actors working in the area, the situation is very concerning, as food, shelter, water, health and protection needs remain unmet in the more than  55 evacuation sites that were set up to meet first needs   in this situation.

The humanitarian response is affected by the uncertainty of the situation, which makes it difficult to register IDPs and thus to identify gaps in humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, the insecurity affects aid workers’ access to the displaced population and the closure of major roads limits the displaced persons’ freedom of movement. Save the Children Philippines has called for a coordinated and consistent response to ensure  the protection of children and their families who have been affected by the ongoing armed conflict, amidst  expectations that the struggle will continue and provoke further displacement and increased humanitarian needs. Its Chief Executive in the country, Mr. Alberto T. Muyot, expressed his strong concern regarding  the present situation of the children in Maguindanao who, “have to endure fear and displacement once again at the most unfortunate time of COVID-19”.

Another cause for  concern is related to the psychological stress children are experiencing due to the volatile security situation, the apparent lack of privacy in the evacuation centers and in particular their bathrooms, and the untenable  conditions in which they have to live. Mr. Muyot thus urged the humanitarian aid community “to ensure that boys and girls are treated with prompt and regular mental health interventions and that temporary shelters are provided with gender-responsive WASH facilities to avert cases of gender-based violence”. To achieve this, humanitarian organizations are working closely with the authorities of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, the Mindanao Ministry of Social Services and Development and the Ministry of the Interior and with local government to coordinate the response and to address  the most urgent needs of children and families’ needs.


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Author: Michele Pitta

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