[HA-19-2005: Starvation and hunger threaten hundreds of displaced villagers following intense fighting in Maguindanao, Mindanao]
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) is deeply concerned by reports that at least three children displaced due to fighting in southern Philippines have died from malnutrition-related illnesses. The small children were all reported to have died on August 28 from diarrhea caused by inadequate food and unsanitary water.
The three dead infants were among hundreds of villagers forced to flee and stay at evacuation centres due to fighting on the southernmost island of Mindanao who have reportedly not received adequate food relief and other emergency assistance from the concerned government authorities. The AHRC has earlier reported on the critical situation faced by villagers in the region in our earlier appeal: HA-19-2005.
We are again urging you to write to the responsible government agencies to demand that they take action to stop further deaths and ensure that the displaced people are adequately cared for until they are able to return to their villages.
Urgent Appeals Desk – Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)
The AHRC has received a report from United Youth for Peace and Development (UNYPAD), a human rights organization based in Cotabato City, Mindanao, that three children died at an evacuation centre for persons fleeing fighting on the island this 28 August 2005. Two of the children were identified as one-year-olds Nurhuda Kaling and Babaykan Kasan. The third victim was not named. All the children reportedly died from diarrhea caused by lack of nutritious food and potable water supply. At the time they fell ill they did not get any medical attention.
The children’s families were among the hundreds of people who left their villages in Sitio Balis, Barangay Ahan, Guindolungan, Maguindanao province, on 13 July 2005 when fighting began in the area. Fighting has also been going on in Talayan of Maguindanao province.
Despite the desperate conditions faced by evacuees, and reports of such starvation deaths, it has been reported that the concerned government agencies are yet to become seriously involved. While there are several local and foreign relief organizations present in the area, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has reportedly not yet played any significant role in addressing the people’s needs.
Although local and foreign relief organizations recently initiated a medical mission at an evacuation centre in Maguindanao housing over 500 families, most people are still struggling for their daily meals. As a result, some villagers have opted to stay with relatives outside of the evacuation centre.
According to Fr. Bert Layson OMI, chairperson of the Mindanao People’s Caucus (MPC), a coalition of human rights organizations in Mindanao, since the evacuation began in July 2005 each family of evacuees has received only 25 kilos of rice, and other non-food assistance from various local and international humanitarian agencies. The assistance has been so meager that the evacuees have been struggling to survive. The local authorities, however, have yet to act on the pressing problems of lack of food and medical services.
Even though some farmers have been able to harvest their crops with permission from the government forces, their harvest has hardly augmented their food needs. Large areas of rice fields are also lying deserted and the crops have been destroyed. Most farmers have been unable to harvest due to the ongoing fighting, as described in our previous appeal: HA-19-2005.
Please send a letter to the regional director of the Department of Social Welfare and Development calling for action to prevent the further unnecessary deaths of children due to malnutrition, and urgent steps to address the needs of all the evacuees, with particular reference to the needs of the families of the three dead children. Please note the details of the new contact person in the department in Mindanao.
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Dear Mr Karon
Re: UPDATE (Philippines): Three children die at evacuation centre due to hunger; adequate food urgently needed for starving evacuees
I am writing to express my shock and dismay at reports that at least three children have died due to hunger-related illnesses after being evacuated from an area of fighting in Mindanao along with hundreds of other villagers.
According to the information I have received, the three children died at an evacuation centre for persons who fled from fighting in Sitio Balis, Barangay Ahan, Guindolungan, Maguindanao province on 13 July 2005. Over a month later, the evacuees had not received adequate food, water and medical assistance, and as a result the children died on 28 August 2005. Two of the children were identified as one-year-olds Nurhuda Kaling and Babaykan Kasan. The third victim was not named. All the children reportedly died from diarrhea caused by lack of nutritious food and potable water supply. At the time they fell ill they reportedly did not get any medical attention.
Despite the desperate conditions faced by evacuees, and reports of such starvation deaths, I have heard that concerned government agencies are yet to become seriously involved. While there are several local and foreign relief organizations present in the area, your Department of Social Welfare and Development is not known to have as yet played any significant role in addressing the people’s needs. According to one report, since the evacuation began in July 2005 each family of evacuees has received only 25 kilos of rice, and other non-food assistance from various local and international relief organizations. And although these groups recently initiated a medical mission at an evacuation centre in Maguindanao housing over 500 families, most people are still struggling for their daily meals. As a result, some villagers have opted to stay with relatives outside of the evacuation centre.
I urge you to take immediate and urgent action to address the needs of these evacuated villagers and prevent any further needless deaths of innocent children. In particular, the families of the three children who died should be identified and their special needs assessed, taking into account various factors including compensation and psychological trauma caused by the loss of their children. Calamity funds should also be released to assist those persons who have not yet benefited from emergency schemes.
In this regard, the Government of the Philippines should adhere to the provisions of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which determine that it is the government that has the primary responsibility to provide assistance to the displaced persons in times of internal armed conflict.
I trust that you will take action on this matter accordingly.
PLEASE SEND LETTERS TO
Mr. Bainon G. Karon
ORC Compound, Cotabato City
Tel/Fax: +63 64 421 9717
Direct Line: +63 64 421 1241
PLEASE SEND COPIES TO:
1. Datu Andal S. Ampatuan
9605 Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao
Tel: +63 64 489 0905 / +63 64 489 0998
Fax: +63 64 489 0997
2. Ms. Rosalinda Tolosa
Commission on Human Rights (CHR XII)
Sy Compound, Leon Llido Street
9500 General Santos City
Tel/Fax: +63 83 553 8887
Cotabato City extension office
Tel: +63 64 482 0384 / +63 64 421 6307
3. Ms. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
J.P. Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila NCR 1005
Fax: +632 2929 3968
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Dr. Nicolas Alipui
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF)
31/F Yuchengco Tower, RCBC Plaza
Ayala Ave. cor. Sen. Gil J. Puyat Ave.
Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone: +63 2901 0173
Fax: +63 2901 0195
5. 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
Tel.: +41 22 917 9300
Fax: +41 22 917 9010
6. Mr. Anthony Banbury
World Food Programme
Unit No. 2, 7th Floor
Wave Place Building
55 Wireless Road
Fax: +66 2655 4413
Urgent Appeals Desk — Hunger Alert
Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC)