Editorial: So many to help-A A +A
Friday, October 18, 2013
IT’S not yet past Halloween but the Christmas season in the country already started, the countdown marking time. Staring down at us, however, are stories of disasters and suffering people.
The worst hit are the people of Bohol, followed by those of Cebu. But please don’t forget too, the people of Zamboanga -- they who lost lives, limbs, and homes by the dictates of man.
While residents and local officials are still picking up the debris and digging through the ruins in Bohol and Cebu, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that consecutive days of rain have submerged parts of Zamboanga up to chest deep, raising risks of diseases in cramped evacuation centers like the families in the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex are facing.
Residents don’t like it at the evacuation centers, but they have nowhere else to go. Their homes at Rio Hondo, Santa Catalina, and Santa Barbara have been razed at the height of gunbattle between government soldiers and the followers of Nur Misuari.
Not just the floodwaters are bringing misery. The high winds are destroying temporary shelters , as well. To date, around 41,000 are still living in 29 evacuation centers in Zamboanga, who may sink into more desperate states if we forget about them.
This is not about who deserves to be given more. This is about keeping everyone who needs assistance within our line of vision and consciousness, so that when we do decide to help, they are top of our minds. Today, they are the people of Zamboanga, Cebu, and Bohol.
The season of giving will soon be upon us, let us open our hearts and pockets, thousands need help.
Some of the 41,000 people living in 29 evacuation centers will probably have to stay there for the next two months, as shelling or flooding have damaged many houses.
Others have lost their means of livelihood. "Many people are not allowed to go back to their villages, as the authorities are still conducting clearing operations. Heavy rains have slowed down those operations, delaying their return," said Victor Liozo Jr, administrator of the PRC's Zamboanga chapter.
Between 5 and 16 October, the ICRC and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) delivered emergency aid, improved sanitation, provided basic health care and improved living conditions for displaced people.
Together, the two organizations:
distributed one-month food rations, household items and hygiene items to around 5,000 families in seven evacuation centres;
delivered 40 tonnes of rice and 25,000 tins of sardines to the PRC's Zamboanga chapter, for distribution to 8,000 families;
started building latrines in Taluksangay National High School, with 32 latrines already installed; will build a number of latrines at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, where sanitation needs are acute;
operated "cleaning brigades" in seven evacuation centres, employing over 1,000 evacuees, who were paid for sweeping and waste disposal;
promoted health and hygiene, including proper hand washing techniques, at four evacuation centres; provided clean drinking water via nine water storage bladders at six evacuation centres;
donated plumbing materials to Zamboanga City Water District, so they could install new water points connected to the public network;
operated a basic health-care unit round the clock at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex; \
deployed an ICRC medical team to Zamboanga, to assess public health, focusing on displaced people living in evacuation centres.
ICRC teams, including medical personnel, visited and registered 285 people in Zamboanga whom the authorities had detained in connection with the fighting. They monitored their conditions of detention and their treatment and supplied all detainees with clothes and toiletries.
Meanwhile, flooding and separate hostilities have hit Basilan, in the Sulu archipelago. The ICRC has supported the PRC Basilan chapter’s operations by donating 10 tonnes of rice and 6,000 tins of sardines, which the PRC will be distributing to 2,000 families.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on October 19, 2013.