Stay and Deliver: Responding to COVID-19 in the Philippines

Forcibly displaced families in Mindanao face added health and protection risks due to COVID-19. In times of crisis, UNHCR stays and delivers.

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.

There are currently more than 370,000 individuals who are forcibly displaced in Mindanao as a result of persecution, conflict, and violence. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, fresh displacement is still taking place.

In times of crisis, UNHCR stays and delivers. We are working closely with the government and other partners to provide essential goods and services to forcibly displaced families.

Since March, UNHCR Philippines has been working relentlessly to provide key interventions on ground. We have distributed core relief items, provided equipment to government-run health facilities, localized COVID-19 key messaging to support community level health awareness raising, and supported government operations in providing essential services to the forcibly displaced.

Much has been done, but the work continues. Concerns on limited access to basic services and livelihood remain as needs and challenges, demanding provision of durable solutions. IDPs are living in overcrowded areas and social distancing is impossible to implement in such conditions. Moreover, the urgency in addressing violence against women and children across Mindanao, including women and children displaced, calls for prompt action and support from humanitarian actors and state agencies.

UNHCR Philippines, with your help, guidance from our government partners, and support from protection actors, relentlessly fulfills its commitment to continuously provide essential services to these forcibly displaced families, during and beyond this global health emergency.


Supporting Government Operations in Providing Essential Services to IDPs

Over the past few months, UNHCR has been supporting government operations to ensure that essential goods and services reach the most vulnerable forcibly displaced families at this time. 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.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_MILG

26 June 2020 – UNHCR Philippines delivered 13,420 Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and tarpaulins to the Ministry of the Interior and Local Government (MILG) BARMM to support their response to the needs of forcibly displaced families during and beyond COVID-19. The turnover ceremony was attended by BARMM Chief Minister Al Haj Murad’ Ebrahim and Sapia Taulani, Senior Protection Associate of UNHCR.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Marawi

22 June 2020 – UNHCR delivered Personal Protective Equipment consisting of face shields, patient care gloves and N95 masks to Marawi City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO), to support 130 frontline service providers and 5 line agencies on their COVID-19 response. This is part of the City Government’s extensive intervention operations on the provision of basic services and relief assistance to internally displaced families in transitory sites and host communities.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_MSSD1

15 May 2020 – UNHCR Philippines, with the assistance of CFSI, handed over 4,000 Personal Protective Equipment (N95 masks, medical masks and gloves) to MSSD BARMM. 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.


Provision of Equipment to Assist Government-Run Programs

In view of UNHCR’s steadfast commitment in providing services, protection mechanisms and humanitarian needs, the Mindanao Virtual Protection Coordination Platform (MVPCP) Meeting is spearheaded by UNHCR and Bangsamoro Government’s Ministry of Social Services and Development (BARMM MSSD), with full participation of key state agencies. Members of the MVPCP will work closely through teleworking modalities to ensure timely response to protection issues and implementation of key activities in Mindanao including BARMM region and facilitate timely information-sharing with the IDP community on health measures in response to COVID-19.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_MSSD2

11 May 2020 – UNHCR Philippines provided tablets to the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MSSD) – BARMM in order to facilitate the beneficiary verification and registration of IDPs for Social Amelioration Program (SAP). This intervention is part of UNHCR’s support to MSSD’s work in assisting vulnerable persons on the ground and enhance its response to IDPs during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Cotabato Bulacan

On 28 Mar 2020, 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. On 5 May 2020, UNHCR Philippines and partners recently extended a donation of 8,152 Personal Protective Equipment to Santa Maria, Bulacan and Cainta, Rizal as two of UNHCR’s partners in the Cities #WithRefugees campaign. Through these donations, UNHCR extends its solidarity to the two municipalities in responding to the needs of its people, including refugees, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.


Distribution of Core Relief Items

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_NorthCotabato2

24 Jun 2020 – Forcibly displaced families in Mindanao face serious health and protection risks brought about by conflict and the coronavirus pandemic. UNHCR Philippines, with the support of Magungaya Maguindanao Inc. (MMI) delivered Core Relief Items to 5,638 forcibly displaced individuals in Pikit, North Cotabato.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Sultan Kudarat

4 Jun 2020 – UNHCR Philippines, with the support of the Australian Government and in partnership with Magungaya Mindanao, Inc., recently distributed Core Relief Items comprising plastic sheets, mosquito nets, blankets and solar lamps to 804 individuals who have been displaced at Brgy. Kalamongog, Lebak Municipality, Sultan Kudarat Province.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_LanaoDelSur

29 May 2020 – UNHCR Philippines, with the support of the Australian Government and in partnership with CFSI delivered core relief items for 55 displaced families in Barangay Matalin, Malabang, Lanao del Sur. The solar lamps, plastic tarpaulins, and mosquito nets were given to MSSD BARMM in support of their work in assisting vulnerable persons on the ground and enhancing its response to IDPs during the coronavirus pandemic.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_NorthCotabato1

18 May 2020 – UNHCR Philippines brought life-saving aid to 965 families in Pikit, North Cotabato, who were recently forced to flee their homes due to conflict. UNHCR and Community and Family Services International (CFSI) gave core relief items that included hygiene kits for added protection from coronavirus, tarpaulins for temporary shelters, portable solar lamps, blankets, sleeping mats, and mosquito nets.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_Maguindanao

10 Apr 2020 – 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).


Community Level Health Awareness Raising

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..

Apr 2020 – 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.