Stay and Deliver in Mindanao: Protecting the Forcibly Displaced Amid COVID-19

With the rising number of COVID-19 cases as well as armed conflict and fresh displacement in parts of Mindanao, internally displaced families are more vulnerable than ever before. This unprecedented situation calls for strengthened partnership and coordination among key actors.

UNHCR Philippines, together with its donors and partners, is committed to stay and deliver life-saving aid as well as ensure that the protection of the most vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs) is at the center of the government’s COVID-19 response.

More than 350,000 individuals are currently displaced in Mindanao as a result of armed conflict, violence, and natural disasters. The Department of Health reports 475 COVID-19 positive cases across Mindanao, and the number is still increasing at an alarming rate.


Strengthened partnership and coordination with BARMM

In order to address the extraordinary challenges posed by COVID-19 and scale up the provision of the necessary goods and services to IDPs, UNHCR Philippines is strengthening its partnership with the Ministry of Social Services and Development of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (MSSD-BARMM).

Communities at risk of displacement, those currently displaced, and repeatedly displaced across Mindanao due to armed conflict and natural disasters are especially vulnerable to health and protection risks during this period. Ongoing concerns on health, safety, food and sanitation among IDPs continue to escalate, and the stringent implementation of community lockdown across the country restricts the movement of humanitarian actors on the ground.

UNHCR Philippines, with the assistance of CFSI, handed over 4,000 Personal Protective Equipment (N95 masks, medical masks and gloves) to MSSD BARMM on the 15th of May. The delivery of PPEs shall further facilitate the ongoing operations of MSSD in providing essential services to internally displaced communities during this COVID-19 emergency.

In view of UNHCR’s steadfast commitment in providing services, protection mechanisms and humanitarian needs, the Mindanao Virtual Protection Coordination Platform (MVPCP) Meeting was formed. This is spearheaded by UNHCR Philippines and MSSD-BARMM, with the full participation of key state agencies. Members of the MVPCP are working closely through teleworking modalities to ensure timely response to protection issues and implementation of key activities in Mindanao, and facilitate timely information-sharing with the IDP community on health measures in response to COVID-19.

Staying and delivering

UNHCR Philippines is closely coordinating with government authorities for the full inclusion of refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the national surveillance, preparedness, response plans and activities.

UNHCR is making a concerted effort to secure delivery of essential personal protective equipment (PPE) for operations, primarily in its area of responsibility in Mindanao.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Maguindanao3

The municipalities of Ampatuan and Guindulungan received hygiene kits, blankets, plastic tarpaulins, solar lamps, and mosquito nets. This distribution of CRIs is supported by the Australian Government and implemented by UNHCR Philippines and Community and Family Services International (CFSI).

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Cotabato

UNHCR Philippines together with its partner Community and Family Services International (CFSI) provided core relief items (CRIs) to the most vulnerable families, upon the request of the Cotabato City local government.

UNHCR and partners are also seeking to ensure that persons of concern are informed about COVID-19, receive WHO guidance on symptoms and preventative measures, and are aware of the steps to take if infection occurs. Translated Communicating with Communities (CwC) materials are shared across operations to enable widest possible coverage..

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. In Zamboanga, key messaging from Department of Health (DOH) was translated to Sinama, the local language of the Sama Bajau community, by UNICEF and IOM.

While responding to the COVID-19 crisis is a priority, ensuring the delivery of regular programmes to provide critical protection and life-saving support to UNHCR’s persons of concern in Mindanao continues to be a key priority.