Via OCHA: Philippines: Zamboanga, a forgotten crisis in the shadow of Haiyan. Excerpt:
Today, four months on from an attack by rebels, more than 59,000 people are still displaced in Zamboanga City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. They are living in the 10 remaining evacuation centres scattered across the port city. They are living in overcrowded conditions and have limited access to basic sanitation facilities.
Putli Suhaili, 45, a widowed mother of five lives at the city’s sports stadium that was turned into an evacuation centre in the days after the fighting began. She feels that her family has been forgotten.
“We are having a very difficult time,” she says. “There is not enough food and water, and our kids are dying in these conditions. I have nowhere to go.”
Destroyed homes and ruined livelihoods
Between early September and mid-December, forty-seven deaths were reported at the stadium evacuation center, almost half of them children below five years old and most of them resulting from inadequate access to clean water and sanitation. More than 20,000 people are vulnerable to disease outbreaks.
“The camps are very crowded, living conditions are not healthy,” said Safia Crisostomo, a Camp Manager for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the government agency leading the humanitarian response. “One of our major concerns is child health related to waterborne diseases. Some expansion in water and sanitation activities, like clean water and latrines could improve the situation.”
Healthcare, emergency shelter and protection are also priorities, say aid groups.
Many families say they cannot return to their homes because they were destroyed or because their livelihoods were lost. Boging Gamilay, is a fishermen from Mariki, a village outside Zamboanga. His house was destroyed and his boat and nets were burned. He is now living in an informal camp just outside the stadium.
“Living conditions are not good here but we have nowhere to go back too. My boat, house and livelihood…everything is gone now.”
More than $70 million in damages
The fighting between a faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and Government forces left over 200 people dead, with roughly 128,000 people affected in Zamboanga and on the nearby island of Basilian. Heavy fighting brought Zamboanga – a city of nearly 1 million – to a standstill. Over 10 per cent of the city’s population was displaced.
An estimated 46,000 jobs were lost or disrupted due to the conflict and more than 6,600 homes completely destroyed by fire. The total damage is estimated at US$73.2 million according to the Government.
The situation worsened in October when days of heavy rains triggered flooding across the city, submerging some evacuation centres and increasing health risks for people living in them.