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Philippines: Financial aid helps displaced families cope in Zamboanga

13-01-2014 Feature

A cash assistance programme is an integral part of the much-needed support given by the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to the displaced population that is yet to recover from the destruction of their livelihood and property.


Displaced families queuing at an assistance distribution centre. ICRC/A.Madrazo

Denusman Wadjarani, a 38-year-old charcoal vendor, lost his home in the city of Zamboanga during the hostilities of September 2013 that occurred on the island of Mindanao, Philippines. Since then, he and his family of four have considered their home to be the cramped Joaquin Enriquez stadium, one of 13 evacuation centres in Zamboanga. The stadium currently accommodates some 16,000 evacuees.

Denusman Wadjarani, with his son, collecting charcoal after receiving a cash grant 

Denusman Wadjarani, with his son, collecting charcoal after receiving a cash grant
© ICRC / A.Madrazo

On 19 December 2013, Wadjarani patiently queued with household members of 5,400 families. They were all taking part in the ICRC-PRC cash assistance programme for people who remain displaced after four months. This short-term financial support not only allows beneficiaries to purchase food and basic necessities directly from the local market but also supports livelihood ventures – thereby restoring the local economy as well as beneficiary dignity.

“I will use this money to start a repacking and retailing business with 10 sacks of charcoal,” stated an elated Wadjarani, who has experience as a charcoal vendor. “I can even buy some fruit for my two sons,” he declared.


Families use the cash in various ways

Jahara Buklao at the evacuation stadium where she plans to open a small retail store with the help of an ICRC cash grant 

Jahara Buklao at the evacuation stadium where she plans to open a small retail store with the help of an ICRC cash grant
© ICRC / A. Madrazo

About 10,000 residential, public and commercial structures were burnt or damaged during the 2013 armed clashes between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front. “My 43-year-old house in Santa Barbara was burned down. I used to sew cloth but my sewing machine was destroyed in the fire. My life is shattered,” said Jahara Buklao, a 61-year-old widow who lives in a tent at the Enriquez stadium “The cash from the Red Cross has given me hope to start a new life. I will buy fish and pangi (cassava) now and I can open a small retail store at the stadium, too,” the teary-eyed mother of eight explained.

The cash assistance programme is adapted to cultural differences. For example, 45-year-old Nida Abubakar, from the ethnic minority Badjao seafaring community, plans to use the cash to buy pangi and fish, which she said the Badjao generally prefer to the customarily distributed rice and sardines. Nina added, “I am happy because my husband will use part of the money to buy gasoline for the motor boat we use for fishing.”

The present and the future

The ICRC-PRC programme has prioritized displaced people living in the 13 evacuation centres in Zamboanga, although some distributions benefit displaced people in other locations, such as the Cawa Cawa shoreline, where Nida and other Badjao have taken shelter. The cash assistance programme for the displaced will likely continue until the end of February 2014, as other means of livelihood support are being studied.