Feature: Displaced residents in Marawi conflict in Philippines hope to return home soon

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-23 20:08:46|Editor: ying
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MANILA, June 23 (Xinhua) -- Casamudin Riga, a displaced Marawi resident temporarily sheltered in an evacuation center, is anxious about the situation of thousands of evacuees that fled the southern Philippine city over the ongoing fighting between government forces and militants allied with the Islamic State (IS).

"Our situation inside the evacuation center is not easy. It's humid during the day, but it's too cold at night. As evacuees, we don't have much choice. I am just grateful because at least my family is complete and safe," said the 51-year-old trader.

Riga voiced his hope that he could return home soon and start his life all over again.

However, the month-long conflict in the southern Philippine city of Marawi marked its first month with no sign of "immediate end in sight," the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Friday.

The aid agency said that Riga and the more than 200,000 people displaced by the raging war continue to face many humanitarian needs as fighting continue to rage.

"The situation is far from over. Fighting is ongoing, and civilians who are trapped or are displaced continue to face challenging situations," said Roberto Petronio, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Mindanao.

Petronio appealed for food, drinking water, sanitation facilities and health care, saying the displaced people need them badly in the coming weeks.

He said limited food and drinking water supply, as well as access to sanitation facilities, remain as the most urgent needs of displaced residents.

The onset of the rainy season has already worried the ICRC, which said it poses increased health risks to displaced residents, especially children and elderly in the evacuation centers.

"Protracted stay under such conditions makes them more vulnerable to water-borne and communicable diseases," the ICRC said.

"The rainy season has started, and thousands are still scattered in evacuation centers, while many families have sought shelter with relatives," the ICRC said.

The Geneva-based agency said the affected residents who are likely to face prolonged displacement due to the impact of the fighting and sources of income, need help to get back on their feet.

While evacuation efforts are underway, the ICRC said an estimated 300-500 people remain trapped inside the city.

"Circumstances are dire for those who are left behind in Marawi City," the ICRC said.

"Their lives remain in danger with the fighting zone, and it's impossible for humanitarian organizations to provide them with much needed assistance due to access and security issues," it added.

The aid agency said efforts to secure a humanitarian corridor should continue to ensure the safe evacuation of the trapped civilians.

The ICRC has expressed concern over reports of civilians who were killed or deliberately targeted, and those who are being held against their will.

"Civilians are not part of the fighting and should be protected," the ICRC said.

Clashes broke out on May 23 when some 500 militants with the help of some 40 foreign fighters stormed the city of more than 200,000 people.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said efforts continued to clear Marawi of remaining armed terrorist that continued to pose pockets of resistance to the advancing troops.

There are also continuing efforts to rescue trapped residents "to include those held as hostages (and) recovery of civilian casualties or cadavers," Abella said.

"The Duterte administration is now preparing a comprehensive multi-year Marawi reconstruction plan," Abella said, adding that an inter-agency task force will be convened to make an assessment of the situation.

"Repairs, rehabilitation and reconstruction of public infrastructure in Marawi will be funded," he said, adding the 10 billion pesos (200 million U.S. dollars) financial aid is being readied to finance reconstruction of the city ruined by bombs and bullets.

Abella added, "They are laying the groundwork, and as soon as the military says that Lanao del Sur province is cleared, they will go into action. So, until then, we will have to wait for their assessment."