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Philippines: ICRC to step up humanitarian response in Mindanao

06-09-2008 News Release 08/165

Manila (ICRC) – The ICRC's deputy director of operations Dominik Stillhart has just finished a visit to the Southern Philippines, where he met some of the thousands of civilians affected by the armed conflict between the Philippine armed forces and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

“Mindanao has suffered its worst fighting since 2003,” said Mr Stillhart. “Up to half a million people have been affected by the hostilities, and tens of thousands of them have had to flee their homes.”

Working closely with the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC), the ICRC has been providing food, essential household goods, water, shelter and medical care for 70,000 people.

The population of Libungan Torreta doubled on the night of 22 August, when 3,800 displaced persons flooded the village in Central Mindanao, which is normally home to around 3,000. “We came on foot and by boat when we heard the mortar shelling, just with the clothes we were wearing,” says Fairudz Abdul, cradling her youngest daughter, who is one year old. Babies had to be wrapped in plastic during the flight for protection against the rain, which is still pouring. It is the rainy season in the Philippines, and the tiny tents made of palm leaves leak continuously. “It is so cold at night,” says another woman, holding her granddaughter’s hand.

During a meeting with the press in Cotabato, Mr Stillhart predicted that “given the uncertainties surrounding the peace process, civilians will continue to suffer the effects of the armed conflict,” adding that the ICRC would be stepping up its operations in the region over the coming months. " We intend to provide assistance and protection for up to 325,000 people between now and the end of the year,'' he said.

The ICRC has been working in the Philippines for many years and enjoys a close partnership with the PNRC. According to Stillhart, these two factors were crucial in enabling the organization to intensify its effort s to help the people of Mindanao.

Mr Stillhart reminded both sides of their obligation to comply with international humanitarian law. In particular, they must take all possible steps to spare civilians from the effects of hostilities and must allow and facilitate deliveries of emergency relief and medical supplies to all who need them.

 
For further information, please contact:
  Roland Bigler, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
  Iolanda Jaquemet, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 908 683 8264