By LITO RULONA
AN ailing three-year old child died at an evacuation camp at the capitol grounds of Malaybalay, Bukidnon, on Tuesday.
Anabel Tuyor, chairperson of the Lumad organization Pigyayungaan, identified the child as Angeline Popwan who died after she was released from a hospital where she was admitted.
“The doctors would not really say what was wrong with her except that it was impossible to cure her,” Tuyor said.
Angeline was among the hundreds of children suffering the dire conditions at the camp-out. Three other children remain in the hospital as of Angeline’s death.
Tuyor, in a press statement, identified the other ailing children as one-year old Marilou Balanban and Jane Daoit, and Poy Balanban, 10.
Tuyor said the children showed the similar symptoms of diarrhea and high fever observed in Angeline.
But she said Angeline had the worst case because she had been excreting blood in her final days.
The displaced families are joining the Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya to Manila in an attempt to bring to the public’s attention the continued militarization and displacement of Lumad communities in Mindanao.
The Lakbayan would begin on Aug. 21.
In late June, Higaonon evacuees added to the Tigwahanon displaced families who have been at the grounds since May. Both communities sought refuge at the grounds from paramilitary elements – the New Indigenous Peoples’ Army for Reform in San Fernando, Bukidnon, and the Alamara in Cabanglasan.
“The children suffer from lack of nutrition in the camp,” said Tuyor, who also speaks on behalf of the Cabanglasan evacuees.
Tuyor herself had to leave her community two years ago because of similar threats from the paramilitary group.
“Although they would run around and get dirty back home, they are not exposed to the pollution in the city. They were relatively well-fed from what their families grow in their farms and gather from the forest. Here, they are lucky if they could eat regularly.”
Food at the evacuation camp is not consistent. On top of this, the kind of food that they get are not the staple crops they usually consume, adding to cases of indigestions and diarrhea.
“But the bottom line is not their lack of food but their continuing security problem,” said Jomorito Goaynon, chairperson of Kalumbay Regional Lumad Organization of which Pigyayungaan is a member.
“It is angering to think that they are preferring to starve in this camp-out, where they continue to plead for action from the government, than to go home and risk getting massacred,” he said.
The evacuees, although tired of their conditions and longing for their ancestral lands, have maintained that they will not – could not – go home until their demands for government action against the paramilitary groups are heeded.