Valle: The Maranao evacuees are longing to go home

THERE'S more than meets the eye in evacuation centers, whether home-based or those trying to survive in the small tents provided by DSWD, or at the school or community gyms around Lanao del Norte.

In addition to the lack of food and water, light at night and electric fan to temporarily ease the unbearable heat at night when four to five families squeezed themselves in a 4X4 meters or even less space in schools, madrasahs, even mosques, to get whatever semblance of rest they could get, it is certainly an under-statement to say that the Maranao evacuees are getting by.

They are forced in this situation because of the so-called “Maute rebellion” that is supposed to be ISIS—inspired, but then, it doesn’t mean that their children should be made to bear the brunt and suffer the scourge, as our government has the RESPONSIBILITY AND THE MORAL OBLIGATION to respond to the humanitarian crisis obtaining in these God-forsaken land.

It has been over two months since thousands of families had been driven out from their irredeemably ruined abode, but humanitarian response in terms of basic needs for food and water provision has been coming into the besieged people in trickles.

While we are reading about so-called government assistance pouring into evacuees as reported in the mass media, a visit to some of these places makes one wonder where these assistance have gone.

Instead, there are too many heart-wrenching sights of hungry children who are suffering from scabies, cough and colds, their noses drippy with mucus, walking around in their wobbly legs, perhaps trying to comprehend the incomprehensible in their situation.

The second wave of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission was recently held in Iligan City, which was joined by over a hundred participants from different sectors including nuns and priests from various congregations coming from different regions of the Philippines.

Many of the participants have joined for the first time and some of them were moved to tears when the children expressed their aspiration to go back to their homes even if they were told by neighbours that there was no more house they could call their home there.

There was confusion, fear, doubt and uncertainty in their eyes as they looked into sympathetic gazes from the mission members. Their thin bodies and scaly skin speak of the kind of violence that slowly annihilate their race, and yet, they are forced to survive, to eat the cooked rice and canned tinapa that made them want to throw up and crave for the simple but delicious food shared by the family back home.

Their mothers who brought all their children to the medical team were asking for vitamins to feed their children as they thought these would at least help them keep the children from disease, but the kind doctors explains that they still have to make their children eat nutritious food because it is the only source of true nourishment.

The sight chagrin on the faces of the parents pierced through the hearts of the medical personnel, who realized that no amount of medicines can help the evacuees without the proper food to nourish them.

Most of the family members have rashes on their dry skins, including the tiny newborn because they do not have enough water even to drink at least eight glasses as required, and to quench their thirst in the airless evacuation centers that is reeling under the merciless heat of the sun and the dust that made things worse.

While it is only right to make a hype over soldiers who sacrificed and died in the fighting as government is wont to do, making every effort to draw attention to their situation, the hapless tens of thousands among evacuees are not getting the attention they also deserve.

By not providing enough care and assistance to their needs, the evacuees are seemingly made to suffer a fate worse than death.

This is an open invitation to all and sundry, to every Filipino who care about our fellow human beings, Filipinos who are caught in a war that is not of their own making, to go there and see for yourselves how our Muslim sisters and brothers are trying to survive their hostile situation.

Assistance of all kinds is so wanting in their midst, such that they are forced to do things that are haram to their culture. They are being stripped of their humanity in their decrepit situation, and if not addressed at once, God forbid what will happen next. They wanted to go back to their homes, even if these are gone, because they want to rebuild and start all over.

And yet, the national government seems deaf and blind.

If we care enough at all, we can still make a difference.


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