65K Marawi IDPs expected to return home next two to three years

Cotabato City – Authorities estimate that it will take two to three years before about 65,000 residents from the main battle area of Marawi City where structures were reduced to rubbles could return to their homes. 

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) disclosed that the transitional site in Sagonsongan, Marawi City, can only accommodate 6,000 of the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

“It has been a year since the armed clashes began and we still don’t know what lies ahead. I’m starting to feel the weight of it, and there are times when I feel like giving up. But for the sake of my children, I strive to stay strong,” said Diane Sumangan, an evacuee in Saguiaran. She is a resident of Bubonga Marawi, one of the 24 villages in the main battle area affected by the clashes.

With the response shifting from emergency phase towards early recovery, food donations have dwindled and livelihood opportunities are reaching only a few. Majority of displaced families still depend on relatives or friends for support, while those in evacuation sites continue to struggle with poor living conditions in makeshift camps, where the risk from illness in inevitable.

“Efforts to rehabilitate Marawi and assist its people must be stepped up to reduce the sufferings of thousands of those who were displaced over the past year. The efforts are there, but these must match the growing needs of those who face prolonged displacement and are close to despair,” said Pascal Porchet, Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in the Philippines.

“The displaced families struggle to feed their families, buy medicines or resume their small businesses due to lack of livelihood opportunities or capital. Uncertainty about the future has added to their worries, “added Porchet.

Although the ICRC remains committed of supporting those who fled the fighting, and to do more by addressing gaps in the overall early recovery response, in coordination with the authorities and other aid organizations, however Porchet said it is the authorities’ main role to assist people affected by conflict. 

Porchet stressed that the pending issues concerning the transitional site such as lack of regular supply of water and absence of proper sewage collection and treatment should be resolved soon.

There are estimated 230,00 people who are languishing in squalid makeshift tents due to the Marawi siege, and are in need of stronger support the bloody skirmished broke out in May 2017. 

The ICRC together with the PRC has been helping thousands of people affected by the Marawi crisis. It is now focusing its efforts to help the remaining displaced families in Marawi and in Lanao del Sur by improving their access to health care and clean water and by supporting their livelihood recovery efforts. 

The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization whose exclusively humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide them with assistance. It has an international mandate to promote knowledge for and respect of international humanitarian law.