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PHILIPPINES: Displaced families starving due to abject poverty in General Santos City, Mindanao

September 13, 2005

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ASIAN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION - URGENT APPEALS PROGRAM

13 September 2005
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HA-22-2005: PHILIPPINES: Displaced families starving due to abject poverty in General Santos City, Mindanao

PHILIPPINES: Hunger and malnutrition; abject poverty; displacement
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Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has received information regarding the starvation and hunger three displaced families are experiencing in Barangay Bawing, General Santos City, Mindanao. One family, in particular, lives in such desperate conditions that they struggle to eat even once daily.

Most of the displaced victims, who are from indigenous communities, must scavenge garbage dumps as a means to provide for their livelihoods. In recent years, over 40 families in the village have been displaced and are now forced to scavenge dumpsites. They used to cultivate farms in nearby T'boli, South Cotabato but had to migrate due to frequent fighting between soldiers and rebels in the area.

The AHRC asks for your immediate intervention into the matter. We hope that the city government of General Santos will provide appropriate assistance to the victims and that the necessary steps are taken to eradicate hunger and poverty in the area.

Urgent Appeals Desk - Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission
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DETAILED INFORMATION:

Victims:
1. Genevive Diamil (29) and her husband Basil Diamil (27), and their siblings Jun Rey (7), Diamil (5) and Brix (2)
2. Cosme Asi and his wife Ampoy, and their two siblings Melissa and Taldil
3. Ta Palati (19) and her husband Romeo, their two siblings Edel (3) and Rosanna (2) and some 40 other families
Location:
Purok Darusalam, Barangay Bawing, General Santos City, Mindanao, Philippines

Three displaced families now residing in a village in General Santos City, Mindanao, are suffering from malnutrition and poverty. The families, who are ethnic minorities originally from farmlands in South Cotabato, now engage in collecting and selling reusable garbage at a dumpsite for a living. They live in desperate conditions, and are also lacking in potable water and sufficient medical assistance.

The Diamil family is one such family, who has to walk several kilometers from their hut to the garbage dump everyday. In total, the family earns about p50 (USD 1) per day, which is used to buy food and their immediate daily needs. The family eats only once daily; a meal that consists of mainly porridge with fermented anchovies and some vegetables. The family also weaves coconut leaves (nipa) to supplement their daily income, however still struggles to buy rice each day.

 Genevive Diamil, aged 29, is nine months pregnant and has received no pre-natal care. Moreover, her three children, who suffer from malnutrition, are not enrolled in any food or vitamin supplement programmes under the local health authorities or social welfare office. They are also in need of deworming medication, but cannot even afford the medication.

The Palati family also faces a similar hunger situation. Not only does the family have to resort to scavenging for their income as well, but like Genevive Diamil, Ta Palati is nine months pregnant and is receiving no medical assistance. Ta also states that as most people in the village have farming backgrounds and are illiterate, collecting reusable garbage is the only type of work they can find to provide for their immediate needs.

The Asi family is another family suffering from hunger and poverty in the village. Cosme and Ampoy Asi, both in their 60's, also rummage for reusable rubbish and weave coconut leaves (nipa) for their earnings. The couple earns about p25 (USD 0.50) per day, depending on how much nipa they can sell, which only allows them to buy 1 kg of rice. The Asis also comment that of the seven siblings they have, all have now moved from their original homes in T'boli South Cotabato and struggle for their livelihoods.

There are at least 40 displaced families from indigenous communities currently living in Purok Darusalam who suffer from hunger, malnutrition and abject poverty. The families, belonging to the B'laan tribe, migrated to the village some years ago as a result of intense fighting and drought in their hometown of T'boli, South Cotabato. Once working in farmlands, the families now scavenge dumpsites or weave coconut leaves as their main source of income and struggle to support themselves with their meager earnings. Most of the children in the village show signs of malnutrition, and are seriously lacking in vitamins and food.

The village in which these ethnic minorities live is in poor condition. Each family must pay p50 (USD 1) every month to a private landowner in order to live in their huts, which are made of cheap and flimsy materials. Only one well and water pump exists in the area, and as the water is muddy, yellow and not suitable to drink, the victims must walk several kilometers to find potable water. Moreover, the village only has one public toilet, and there is no proper waste disposal system. This poses several health risks to the villagers, in particular to the children.

Currently, while starving and struggling to support themselves, the victims in Purok Darusalam are receiving no food assistance, medical care, or welfare. It appears that the local administration's reluctance and refusal to intervene in this matter is because the victims are migrants from South Cotabato, and not original residents of the village, even though they have lived in the area for about six years.

Genevive Diamil (29), mother of three siblings and nine-months pregnant.Aerial view of Purok Darusalem, Barangay Bawing, General Santos City.?At least 40 families of indigenous people living in desperate condition within the village.
Children in the village who needs feeding program.One of the children living in the village who shows sign of malnutrition due to lack of food, proper hygiene and sanitation.

The only deep-well in the village that supplies water. The water smells muddy, yellowish in color and not suitable for drinking. Some of the resident, however, opted to drink the water. It is situated few steps from the village public toilet.


SUGGESTED ACTION:

Please send a letter to city mayor Pedro Acharon Jr. of General Santos City asking the city government to end the starvation and hunger of the affected families without delay. Immediate sustainable food assistance, prenatal and medical care, and proper hygiene and waste disposal must be afforded to the victims.?Alternative means of livelihood should also be offered to the villagers. Please also request Mayor Acharon to order the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) to initiate an assessment and evaluation into the condition of the affected families and take the appropriate steps on it without delay. A sample letter follows.

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Dear __________,

Re: PHILIPPINES: Displaced families suffer starvation due to abject poverty in General Santos City, Mindanao

Victims:
1. Genevive Diamil (29) and her husband Basil Diamil (27), and their siblings Jun Rey (7), Diamil (5) and Brix (2)
2. Cosme Asi and his wife Ampoy, and their two siblings Melissa and Taldil
3. Ta Palati (19) and her husband Romeo, their two siblings Edel (3) and Rosanna (2) and some 40 other families
Location:
Purok Darusalam, Barangay Bawing, General Santos City, Mindanao, Philippines

I am writing to express my deep concern on the reported starvation and hunger three displaced families, and countless others, are presently facing in Purok Darusalam, Barangay Bawing, General Santos City. The three families all currently work as scavengers, searching for reusable garbage from dumpsite, which can be sold for meager earnings. In addition, some families supplement the work by weaving coconut leaves (nipa) that are used as roofs for huts in the area.

I am saddened to learn that the affected families have been struggling to find food. The Diamil family eats just once a day, and can only afford to eat a meal that consists of rice porridge and some fermented anchovies and vegetables. The Asi and Palati family also struggle to buy rice for their porridge meals on a daily basis.

Furthermore, both Genevive Diamil and Ta Palati are nine months pregnant and have not received any prenatal medical care. Their children also show signs of malnutrition but are not under any food or vitamin programmes under the social welfare department or local health authorities. The village is also desperately lacking in basic necessities; the one water pump produces dirty, yellow water and only one public toilet exists.

Over 40 families currently live in the Purok Darusalam village, most ethnic minorities who originally lived on farmlands in T'boli, South Cotabato. Due to intense fighting and drought, the families relocated to General Santos City more than six years ago, and have since then been suffering from hunger and poverty. Most attempt to provide for their basic needs by scavenging garbage dumps.

It has come to my attention that although the Barangay officials in Bawing, General Santos City are aware of this situation, they have failed to take immediate steps to arrest the starvation and hunger experienced by the families. It was reported that the barangay's resources for social services could not support the affected families. Likewise, I also learned that the barangay officials of Bawing are reluctant to assist the victims since they are not their constituents, but rather migrated to the area from South Cotabato.

I request the city government to take immediate steps for the welfare of the affected families. The city government should take the steps necessary to end starvation and hunger experienced by the villagers, as provided in the government's program under the Republic Act 8425 or the Social Reform Agenda and Poverty Alleviation. They should be afforded with sustainable food assistance, a food-feeding programme and medical care for children, medical assistance for pregnant women, and alternative means of livelihood so they can support themselves without delay.

I further urged the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and the DSWD regional office to assess and evaluate the condition of the affected families. It should assess the affected families' immediate needs in terms of food, medical support, proper hygiene and waste disposal, and proper housing. Immediate steps should be taken based on the social welfare office' findings.

Finally, I request the city government to closely coordinate with the municipal and provincial government of T'boli, South Cotabato to discuss appropriate measures regarding the plight of affected families on the issue of displacement. Any actions taken should be in consultation with the affected families. A dialogue among the local government, village officials, social welfare office and the affected families should also be initiated in addressing the situation.

I trust that you will take immediate action on this case.

Sincerely,

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PLEASE SEND A LETTER TO:

1. Mr. Pedro Acharon Jr.
City Mayor
Office of the City Mayor
City Hall Building
General Santos City
PHILIPPINES
Tel. No.: +63 83 552 7231
Fax No.: +63 83 554 4212

2. Ms. Zorahayda T. Taha
Regional Director
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD XII)
Koronadal Gymnasium
Koronadal City
PHILIPPINES
Tel. No.: +63 83 228 3180 / +63 83 228 3607

3. Mrs. Daisy A. Fuentes
Provincial Governor
Province of South Cotabato
Provincial Capitol, South Cotabato
9506 Koronadal City
PHILIPPINES
Tel. No. +63 83 228 2432
Fax No. +63 83 228 2620

PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:

1. Ms. Rosalinda Tolosa
Regional Director
Commission on Human Rights (CHR XII)
Sy Compound, Leon Lldio Street
Barangay Lagao
9500 General Santos City
PHILIPPINES
Tel/Fax: +63 83 553 8887
Cotabato City extension Office
Tel: +63 64 482 0384 / +63 64 421 6307

2. Dr. Nicolas Alipui
Resident representative
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
31/F Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza
Ayala Ave. cor. Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave.
Makati City, Metro Manila
PHILIPPINES
Telephone: +63 2901 0173
Fax: +63 2901 0195
Email: manila@unicef.org

3. Mr. Jean Ziegler
UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Attn: Mr. Carlos Villan Duran
Room 4-066, C/o OHCHR
CH-1211 Geneva 10
SWITZERLAND
Tel.: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
Email: sect.hchr@unog.ch

4. Mr. Anthony Banbury
Regional Director
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Lumpini, Patumwan
Bangkok 10330
THAILAND
Fax: +66 2655 4413
Email: Anthony.banbury@wfp.org or Bkk.unescap@un.org

Thank you

Urgent Appeals Desk -- Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)

Document Type :
Hunger Alert Case
Document ID :
HA-22-2005
Countries :
Issues :
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