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Desperation greets Red Cross workers as they deliver aid to 1,800 families in Lanao

By FROILAN GALLARDO
Special Correspondent .

MARUGONG, Lanao del Sur–There was silence but desperation was all over the faces of the internally displaced as the aid convoy of trucks rumbled into this dusty town on Sunday.

Elderly women listen for instructions during the distribution of humanitarian aid from the International Committee of the Red Cross in Marugong town, Lanao del Sur, on Sunday. The Red Cross delivered food and non-food aid package for some nine thousand internally displaced people affected by military operations against remnants of the Daesh-inspired Maute group in 2017. Marawi residents want the military to pull out from their town so their can go back to their homes. (photo by Froilan Gallardo)

Far from the gunfire, bombs and artillery, they line up to receive the humanitarian aid package of non-food and food supply from volunteers of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Each of the package contained a 25-kilo bag of rice; 12 small tins of canned sardines; cooking oil; hygiene kits; mosquito nets and sleeping mats; blankets and plastic wash basins and pails.

“That is enough for a family of five to survive for 15 days,” Zehabudin Guro, ICRC chief in Iligan City, said.

Guro said ICRC has distributed non-food and food humanitarian aid packages to 1,800 families or 9,000 persons affected by  Army operations against remnants of the Daesh-inspired Maute group that seized Marawi City in 2017.

He said the affected families came from the towns of Tubaran, Pagayawan, Binidayan and Marugong where month-old military operations left two soldiers killed and more than six militants including its leader,   Humam Abdul Najib or Abu Dar, leader of the Dawla Islamiya in Lanao del Sur.

The ICRC said a total of 50,000 persons from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Bukidnon have been affected by military operations against militants and the communist rebels.

Meher Khatcherian, outgoing ICRC station chief in Iligan, said living conditions are difficult for those living in evacuation centers.

“They have limited access to water and sanitary facilities. Food is not sufficient,” he said.

There are also problems that aggravated the humanitarian situation in Lanao del Sur and Mindanao.

Dayan Ayonga, a 36-year-old mother of five children, smiled as she carried the aid package that was too heavy that a male relative had to help her to a waiting motorcycle.

Ayonga said she have to get the relief goods in Binidayan town because local politics have muddled the distribution in Marugong town.

“I belong to a clan who is opposed to the town mayor. So I was not included in the master list of qualified evacuees of the town,” Ayusan claimed.

Another Tubaran resident, Alicasan Abbas, said many internally displaced persons from Tubaran town are living in the houses of their relatives in Binidayan town.

He said the families of five of his relatives opted to stay in his house in Binidayan.

For food, Abbas said all of them chip in whatever they can afford in the table.

“I rather they stay in my house than at the evacuation site in Tubaran where they are unwelcomed by local mayor,” Abbas said.

Assemblyman Zia Adiong said the humanitarian situation is aggravated by the lack of funding for the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region on Muslim Mindanao (Barmm).

Adiong said the Department of Budget and Management has yet to release the P31-billion allotment for the new Barmm.

He said a resolution from Congress is needed to change the recipient of the budget from Armm to Barmm.

“Right now, the towns under the new Barmm is living on shoe string budget until the DBM release the money,” Adiong said.

He said lack of money aggravated the humanitarian situation in Lanao del Sur.

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