/ 13 April 2021

AS AUTHORITIES and humanitarian organizations expect a prolonged struggle and displacement in the region, a child rights group called for the continuous protection of children and their families in Maguindanao province.

Save the Children Philippines said more than 60,000 individuals have been displaced, including an estimated 27,500 children, since the start of the conflict between government troops and extremist groups on March 18 in the municipality of Datu Saudi Ampatuan.

The conflict has since spilled over in the neighboring towns of Mamasapano, Shariff Saydona Mustapha, Shariff Aguak, Datu Salibo, Datu Unsay and Datu Hoffer Ampatuan.

“We are deeply concerned about the present situation of the children in Maguindanao who have to endure fear and displacement once again at the most unfortunate time of Covid19,” Atty. Alberto Muyot, the group’s chief executive officer, said.

Save the Children Philippines assessed the situation in the evacuation centers and found that the major concerns of children and adolescents were their fear and psychological stress from the volatile security situation and the apparent lack of privacy in the evacuation centers and toilets.

Children and their families have also reported their miserable conditions in evacuation centers.

Due to the compounding safety issues and risks brought about by the pandemic, Muyot highlighted the importance of strategic communication of public health messages across the affected areas.

“We urge the humanitarian community to ensure that boys and girls are accorded with prompt and regular mental health interventions and that temporary shelters are provided with gender-responsive WASH facilities to avert cases of gender-based violence,” Muyot said.

Save the Children Philippines extended humanitarian assistance to 500 families by distributing food items and hygiene essentials. The support was made possible through the ReACh 2 TEACH project funded by the European Union Humanitarian Aid.