COVID-19 Response in the Philippines: Delivering Critical Aid to the Forcibly Displaced

Thanks to the support of donors, UNHCR Philippines together with government and other humanitarian partners reached 21,474 individuals with life-saving assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The most vulnerable forcibly displaced families in Mindanao continue to face the threat of conflict and the unpredictability of natural disasters. The latest Protection Cluster Displacement Dashboard reports that as of 30th June 2020, 351,647 individuals are displaced across Mindanao.

351,647 individuals are forcibly displaced in Mindanao, primarily due to natural disasters and armed conflict, followed by clan feuds, crime and violence. This includes the 188,398 individuals who were forced to flee due to the earthquakes in Davao del Sur and Cotabato last October 2019, and the 126,835 individuals who are still displaced due to the Marawi conflict in May 2017.

Delivering Critical Aid Amid COVID-19

UNHCR Philippines is working in partnership with government and other humanitarian organisations to ensure that life-saving aid and services remain intact, despite the challenges in movement due to stricter public health measures, enforced community lockdowns and government precautions in mitigating the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

UNHCR distributed core relief items to respond to displacement incidents while indirectly addressing the COVID-19 impacts, targeting IDPs in collective centers where there is a high risk of contracting the virus. UNHCR also provided Personal Protective Equipment to the BARMM’s fieldworkers as well as IT equipment to maintain protection activities with other humanitarian actors.

Together, we have been able to reach 21,474 individuals in the second quarter of this year. A total of 26,652 personal protective equipment were distributed, along with 4,452 mosquito nets, 4,148 solar lamps, 2,676 plastic sheets, 1,247 blankets, 781 hygiene kits, and 86 sleeping mats.

COVID Response Highlights_PH_NorthCotabato3

26 Jun 2020 – In partnership with CFSI and in coordination with the Local Government Unit, UNHCR Philippines gave plastic sheets to reinforce temporary shelters, blankets, sleeping mats, solar lamps, and mosquito nets benefiting 22 displaced families in Pikit, North Cotabato, most of whom have elderly members.

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).

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.



Strengthened Coordination and Capacity Building Among Protection Actors

Amid the pandemic, the well-being of UNHCR’s persons of concern has been at the centre of its COVID-19 prevention and response efforts. Physical distancing has required UNHCR to draw on its adaptive capabilities, leverage diverse channels and modalities of communication, and rapidly scale up practices to ensure that staff, partners and communities can continue to deliver during this exceptionally challenging time.

We extremely need these donations provided to us by the UNHCR, especially when we continue to accommodate those who avail programs set by the government.

Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao


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.


UNHCR and humanitarian actors are continuously working closely with the key government agencies to ensure timely prevention and response to protection issues in BARMM and non-BARMM areas and facilitate timely information-sharing with the IDP community on health measures in response to COVID-19.

Under the leadership of the Ministry of Social Services and Development (MMSD) and the regional offices of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Mindanao, the creation of Mindanao Virtual Protection Coordination Platform (MVPCP) strengthened the coordination among relevant protection actors in Mindanao such as Government agencies, and relevant local government units, NGOs and CSOs, and UN agencies.

UNHCR also deployed Protection and Information Management experts to strengthen BARMM’s capacity in monitoring, reporting, and addressing protection issues and to establish mechanisms to manage potential protection risks for IDPs. Despite the challenges in mobility, UNHCR was able to continue its community-based protection monitoring and profiling through partners, and innovated data gathering through virtual key informant interviews. These activities provided government authorities information on the protection situation in the marginalized parts of their areas of responsibility.

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.