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Philippines: No respite for civilians in Zamboanga

18-09-2013 News Release 13/158

Geneva/Manila (ICRC) – Increasing numbers of people are fleeing their homes amid ongoing clashes in Zamboanga city, on Mindanao Island, generating more humanitarian needs. Together with the Philippine Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up its response.

“A significant number of civilians have been injured or killed, while an unknown but substantial number of houses have been burnt. This is of clear concern for us and will make it all the harder for normal life to resume,” said Pascal Mauchle, the head of the ICRC’s delegation in the Philippines. “We have reiterated, in our dialogue with both sides involved in the fighting, the obligation to take the necessary precautions to spare civilians and their property.”

Clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga have displaced at least 80,000 people according to government statistics, about half of whom have sought temporary shelter in the city’s open-air sports stadium having left their belongings behind them when they fled. Of the 166 people wounded since the clashes began, 67 are civilians according to official figures.

ICRC and Philippine Red Cross personnel are working to ensure the people sheltering in the city stadium have access to drinking water, food, medical attention and other vital aid. Household essentials, such as tarpaulins for protection against the elements, kitchen utensils, jerrycans and personal hygiene products were distributed last night. Moreover, hot meals are being prepared every day for people in the stadium. “Throughout this emergency, Philippine Red Cross volunteers and staff have shown extraordinary levels of motivation and dedication to the people we are helping, even in the face of danger,” added Mr Mauchle.

In addition, ICRC delegates have visited 49 people detained by the authorities in Zamboanga to monitor their treatment and conditions. “This is a very positive development, which reflects our longstanding role in the Philippines working with the detaining authorities to help ensure conditions are in keeping with international standards,” said Mr Mauchle. Delegates also registered detainees in order to follow up on their situation during future visits.

“We hope a positive settlement will soon be found to the situation in Zamboanga, to enable civilians to safely return to their homes and start rebuilding their lives. We stand ready to act as a neutral intermediary to resolve matters of humanitarian concern, if requested to do so. In the meantime, the ICRC remains committed to providing essential aid to people in need,” said Mr Mauchle.

For further information, please contact:
Soaade Messoudi, ICRC Manila, tel: +63 918 907 2125
Ewan Watson, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 33 45 or +41 79 244 64 70


Photos

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. Displaced persons collect drinking water. 

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. Displaced persons collect drinking water.
© ICRC / J. Maitem

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. The Philippine Red Cross and the ICRC are helping 30,000 displaced persons who have taken shelter in the stadium. 

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. The Philippine Red Cross and the ICRC are helping 30,000 displaced persons who have taken shelter in the stadium.
© ICRC / J. Maitem

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. Basins and jerry cans improve water collection and hygiene for displaced people sheltering in the stadium. 

Joaquin Enriquez stadium, Zamboanga. Basins and jerry cans improve water collection and hygiene for displaced people sheltering in the stadium.
© ICRC / J. Maitem

Zamboanga. ICRC staff check jerrycans that will be used to collect and distribute water. 

Zamboanga. ICRC staff check jerrycans that will be used to collect and distribute water.
© ICRC / J. Maitem