A Father’s Plight and the Journey to Recovery

COVID-19 has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of communities facing recurring conflicts and displacement. For a father like Ryan Gulo, a new WASH facility means more than just a source of safe water for his children – it is the first step to a journey towards recovery.

Water used to be a constant source of worry for Ryan Gulo and the residents of Brgy. Buayan, Datu Piang, Maguindanao. At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, Ryan, 35, was perpetually worried about the safety of his two children. Restrictions on mobility as well as the remoteness of their barangay made it very difficult to provide for his family’s needs, and the lack of access to clean water exposed them to additional health and protection risks.

Ryan shares, “Naapektuhan talaga. Hindi tayo nakakahanap ng pang araw-araw kasi nga hindi makakalabas eh,” (We were really affected. I couldn’t provide for the day-to-day because I couldn’t even go out.)

Construction work, his usual means of livelihood, was put on a standstill, so Ryan turned to planting and selling vegetables. He would then ration his earnings to feed his two children and meet his family’s basic necessities. There was no other source of potable water, so he had to wait for the refilling station that would service their barangay – setting aside 15 pesos for a 20-liter bottle of water that would last them for the next two to three days.


Ryan Gulo teaches his son how to properly wash his hands in Brgy. Buayan in the Municipality of Datu Piang, Maguindanao Province. Recurring armed conflicts in Maguindanao have displaced thousands of individuals over the years, and Brgy. Buayan has long been a host community and safe haven for internally displaced persons (IDPs) forced to flee from the conflicts in neighboring areas. This WASH facility is among the fifteen projects funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, which in total benefit at least 45,000 vulnerable individuals across Mindanao. © UNHCR/Jonathan Porras

Thanks to the water system provided by Coca-Cola Foundation Philippines Inc, Ryan and his family now have ready access to clean water for drinking, handwashing, and bathing.

With a smile of relief, he shares, “Nagpapasalamat ako dahil may palibreng tubig… pang-araw-araw na tubig pang-inom, panghugas din.” (I’m very thankful for the free water supply, which we can easily access for our daily needs of drinking and washing.)

The water system has been a tremendous help not only to Ryan’s family but to the 350 households residing in Brgy. Buayan. With no direct water source, households had to rely on scheduled deliveries before the construction of this water system in late 2020. © UNHCR/Jonathan Porras

Recurring conflicts amid a global pandemic

Access to basic services like water is only one of the challenges and vulnerabilities faced by the residents of Brgy. Buayan. Recurring armed conflicts in Maguindanao have displaced thousands of individuals over the years, particularly in the SPMS Box (Salibu, Pagatin, Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak) and its peripheral communities.

Due to its proximity to the SPMS box, Brgy. Buayan has long been a host community and safe haven for internally displaced persons (IDPs) forced to flee from the conflicts in neighboring areas. Ryan himself used to reside in Talitay, Maguindanao, but given the recurring armed conflicts and clan feuds in their area, he had to move to Brgy. Buayan, which is where he eventually started a family.

Despite its capacity to host forcibly displaced families, Brgy. Buayan has limited resources to provide for the basic needs of the caseload IDPs like Ryan’s family. As Ryan has experienced, restrictions on mobility have hampered access to livelihood opportunities and critical services.


Working together to bring life-saving WASH facilities to vulnerable communities

With the help of donors like you and through partnerships with corporations like Coca-Cola, UNHCR is able to mainstream and integrate the protection interventions for COVID-19 into the planning and design of quick impact projects like this water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facility, which provides access to clean water, promotes community empowerment and peaceful co-existence, and strengthens the resilience of the forcibly displaced.

Through the Php4.8M grant provided by Coca-Cola Foundation, and the complementary work of our partners, local government and IDPs themselves, fifteen remote and vulnerable communities will benefit from the projects, which are being implemented from October 2020 to June 2021. This ensures that throughout and beyond this period, access to clean water and sanitation, communal latrines, toilets, wells & water systems, and hygiene education are being provided to these fifteen displacement-affected communities around Mindanao.


As of January 2021, there are 236,525 forcibly displaced individuals around Mindanao due to conflict and natural disasters. As new emergencies arise and older ones like recurring conflicts persist, they need sustainable solutions now more than ever.

Your committed support makes it possible for UNHCR to stay and deliver for those who have been driven from their homes and the communities they now live in. Together, let us recover from this pandemic without leaving the most vulnerable behind.