BY: JUSEPH ELAS
It’s the increasing rate of mortality, health issues, and the seemingly slow response to the clamor of the internally displaced individuals (IDPs) which drove a private group known as ‘Al-Muhminat’ to have a dialogue with the local government to petition for redress of grievances and be the voice of the IDPs.
The Al-Muhminat is a private group composed of Muslim women – mostly mothers – who are dedicated to spreading Islam. The group is primarily concerned with the alarming situation of the IDPs at Don Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex (DJFEMSC) or grandstand, the biggest evacuation site, that is becoming more serious as a result of the armed conflict last September 2013.
“Ang gusto kasi nila [IDPs] madaliin na ‘yung pag-uwi nila doon sa area nila,” (The IDPs want the government to speed up the reconstruction so that they can already return on their respective areas.) said Naida Hadjmuddid.
Hadjmuddid is a disaster relief operation worker of the City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD), one of the civic organizations in the city providing basic assistance for the IDPs at grandstand.
Hadjmuddid explained that the IDPs really want to return to their areas (Mariki, Sta. Catalina, Sta. Barbara, and Rio Hondo) and rebuild their homes there. She said that Housing Division Chief Rodrigo Pagotaisidro explained that the latter’s team is already moving to speed up the reconstruction of the affected areas during the armed conflict between the military and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) led by Ustadz Habier Malik. However, according to Hadjmuddid, Pagotaisidro said that the IDPs residing at Mariki block B before the conflict could not return anymore at the said area because the government is planning to plant mangroves there.
During the dialogue last February 26 between the Al-Muhminat and the local government led by Hon. Mayor Ma. Isabelle Climaco Salazar, City Planning and Development Coordinator Engineer Rodrigo Sicat said that what is taking the reconstruction so long is because of the lack of government property – land property – where the IDPs’ stilt houses can be constructed. But they are already addressing this concern and already making their move.
Another obvious issue at the said evacuation site, that could justify the IDPs want for a faster reconstruction, is health-related issues.
As of the press time, the number of casualties since September 2013 has gone up to 88-90 according to Dr. Rodel Agbulos of the City Health Office, this city.
During the press conference at the city hall last week, Agbulos reported that 88 deaths were reported at DJFEMSC and Cawa-Cawa shoreline, with 38% female and 62% male. Half (50%) were reported in children under 5 years.
Agbulos said that the leading cause of mortality among children under five years is Diarrhea and 41% dies in Pneumonia. But the City Health Office already addressed this issue by conducting a tent-to-tent project where they gave the IDPs health kits with necessary medicines and vaccinations to mitigate the health problems of the IDPs.
“When you talk of intervention, we have already addressed most of our IDPs in grandstand. Talking about percentage, I don’t think that there is still anybody who were not given assistance by the office,” said Agbulos when asked if they have catered all the IDPs’ health concern.
The members of the Al-Muhminat were promised that the reconstruction of the affected areas would start come March this year. With this, they are relieved because they already heard the side of the government; for them this promise will give hope to the IDPs, which is what they want.
Tajmahal Aiyub, spokesperson of the Al-Muhminat, said that they are not expecting that all the IDPs will receive a stilt house, but what matters most is that the local government is not ignoring the concerns of the IDPs. The fact that they will see a concrete and visible action from the government is enough to give them hope.
As days turn to weeks and weeks to months, the issues of the IDPs will long to exist. But Climaco urged the Al-Muhminat to pray for, and have faith in, the local government.