With the threat of COVID-19, families in Mindanao who have fled their homes due to conflict are now facing an emergency on top of another emergency.
As of 6 May 2020, there are 10,004 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Philippines. Of this number, 658 people succumbed to the disease while 1,506 patients already recovered.
UNHCR Philippines joins the united fight against COVID-19. Along with its sister agencies, partners, and donors, UNHCR ensures that the most vulnerable persons, including refugees, internally displaced families, and those at risk of statelessness, are able to access much-needed health care and sanitation services.
COVID-19 has put life to a standstill, but in some parts of the world, wars, conflict, and persecution have not stopped. Here in the Philippines, vulnerable families have recently been forced to flee their homes due to armed conflict in parts of Maguindanao province. To address their immediate protection needs, we gave Core Relief Items (CRIs) to a total of 944 families earlier this month.
Under the partnership framework between the Government of Australia and UNHCR, Australia has committed to support UNHCR for the Protection and Solutions Programme for IDPs in Mindanao for three years until 2022. The partnership aims to contribute to the improvement of protection conditions of IDPs in Mindanao and the reduction of risks faced by displacement communities.
In Cotabato, UNHCR provided plastic tarpaulins that will be set up as tents to support additional health emergency services, as well as hygiene kits for Persons Under Investigation (PUIs) and frontline healthcare workers.
In the face of the challenges posed by the pandemic, UNHCR continues to work closely with the government and Mindanao humanitarian actors to provide and maintain essential protection services.
Raising awareness at the community level is critical in ensuring that vulnerable families are prepared and equipped to face this health emergency. In Lanao del Sur, UNHCR Philippines and partner ACTED are working on ground and organizing the promotion of safe practices against #COVID19 through information materials, as well as the rehabilitation of water facilities and distribution of hygiene kits.
In Zamboanga, with the help of community volunteers, important information was disseminated to the Sama Bajau community. Key messaging from Department of Health (DOH) was translated to Sinama, the local language of the Sama Bajau community, by UNICEF and IOM.
The Sama Bajaus are one of the populations identified by the Philippine Government to be at risk of statelessness due to their itinerant culture and generations of non-registration. Sama Bajaus in high–density settlements face difficulty in observing social distancing, leaving this population more susceptible to contracting the virus.
Visibility materials on guidelines for communities, produced by the Department of Health and translated to local languages in Mindanao, are being reviewed for further distribution to the Sama Bajau community and areas within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region as part of community-level awareness raising efforts.
Even as we face the COVID-19 pandemic, families have continued to flee their homes due to fighting in parts of Mindanao. As of the 31st of March, a total number of 359,941 individuals are displaced in Mindanao. Close to 60% continue to be displaced due to the earthquakes during the last quarter of 2019, and the rest are displaced due to armed conflict, clan feuds, and violence.
During the first quarter of 2020, thanks to our partners and donors, we were able to reach more than 3,800 people with core-relief items in the following locations: 1) Cotabato City; 2) Ampatuan, Maguindanao; 3) Datu Hoffer, Maguindanao; 4) Marawi City; 5) Maluso, Basilan; and 6) Makilala, North Cotabato.
Source: Protection Cluster Philippines
Before, during, and after this global health emergency, UNHCR Philippines remains steadfast in our mandate to stay and deliver critical aid to people on the margins, refugees, the internally displaced, stateless, and host communities.