Civil Society appeal to step up humanitarian response for Marawi

More than a month into the crisis spawned by Islamic State-inspired militants’ siege of Marawi City last May 23, a host of issues still need the attention of authorities, if only to lighten the humanitarian consequences of the continually raging war.

We acknowledge the gravity of the humanitarian crisis, hence, the heavy pressure on the existing capacity of government agencies to respond to the situation. Here, the value of stakeholdership is most felt: those who are affected by the situation must have their voices heard. The lack of regard for this principle by agencies tasked with disaster response has resulted to major unmet demands for action:

* More than 8,000 families who chose to stay in the homes of relatives in Iligan City alone, instead of cramming in the formal evacuation centers, are wanting in access to relief supplies. As of this time, only about 20 percent are served beginning this week.

* There is still a surge in the number of evacuees, this time, no longer coming from Marawi City but in nearby localities of Lanao del Sur. This is because of the tight food supply experienced in their localities as they are not well connected to the regular markets. This can only be addressed if a good route is opened, with security assurances from government, in order for these localities to be effectively linked to the nearest market centers as an alternative to Marawi.

* Many evacuees are still feeling a sense of restriction of movements due to the absence of identification cards that they possess. Principally, this creates problems for them at checkpoints and in transacting with government offices.

Apart from these three major points, we propose the following actions:

* DSWD to recognize CSO groups as partners in camp management. We have been encouraging CSOs to adopt an evacuation center to assist;

* Install help desks at terminals, public markets and hospitals where evacuees can ask assistance;

* Localization of evacuee profiling be done, with active participation of the barangay leaders from where the evacuees are from;

* to systematize the issuance of evacuee IDs to ensure these are publicly recognized;

* NCMF to participate in response operations, especially in locating IDPs who settled in other parts of the country (Visayas and Luzon);

* Women enforcers must be stationed in checkpoints for Muslim women, and a private cubicle must be set up for women in niqqab;

Agencies responsible for disaster response must at all times uphold the dignity of the evacuees, empower them and affirm their inherent capacity to help themselves to rise above the tragedy, and observe sensitivity to cultural nuances.

Amid the urgency of many of the concerns, we ask that the National, Regional, Provincial, Municipal, and Barangay governments must synchronize actions. Coordinated response is the only sure way to address a crisis of this dimension.