Upon the recommendation of the Diocese of Iligan, pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines organized a relief distribution for home-based Internally Displaced People (IDP) coming from the war-torn city of Marawi.
While the Catholic Church continues to assist IDPs in evacuation centers, it has now begun to take into consideration the situation of home-based IDPs, or Maranaos who are staying with their relatives but still sorely lack basic resources for their daily needs. Many of them are crammed in small houses occupied by up to fifteen people.
More than the discomfort, however, the main problem that the IDPs face is the lack of income. Most of the Maranaos were traders and entrepreneurs in Marawi. After the conflict broke out, they hurriedly left their houses and businesses thinking the conflict will only last for three days.
The siege is now on its 78th day. In Mindanao, the Maranaos are known to be a proud race and respected for being skilled tradesmen. Rasmia Hadjiserab, 63 years old, owned several stores in Marawi. In an interview by ACN, Rasmia admitted it was embarrassing for Maranaos like her to depend on relief goods.
“As much as we want to start a business, we are unable to do so because we do not have enough money for capital. All our assets were left behind in Marawi City,” said Hadjiserab.
Not wanting to abuse the hospitality of their relatives in Iligan, Maranaos like Rasmia have no choice but to patiently line-up for hours and wait for emergency relief coming from the government or charity organizations.
“Even though we don’t live in evacuation centers, we can’t really say that we are better off. We don’t have any source of income. There are times when we have to stretch the contents of food packs so it would last us one week.”
The Diocese of Iligan has also started to request for other needs aside from food and drinks. Upon consultation with the IDPs, the diocese is now calling for donations of soaps, sanitary napkins, malong, and other personal hygiene items such as toothbrushes, lotions and insect repellants.
“We were not able to bring anything with us when we fled — no clothes, no slippers, no extra set of clothes,” confirmed Hadjiserab when asked about the importance of the sanitary kit she received from ACN.
In partnership with the Diocese of Iligan and the Order of Malta, ACN distributed 1,500 sanitary kits containing the exact list of items requested by the evacuees. These were given to home-based refugees temporarily residing in Tambacan, Iligan City, Lanao del Norte.
After the relief distribution, ACN also visited evacuation centers in Fuentes and Buru-un, Lanao del Norte. IDPs set-up a freedom wall where they wrote the specific type of aids that they need.
Aside from sanitary kits, there were also a number of requests for electric fans and decent cribs for mothers with infants. Many of the mothers created make-shift cribs out of salvaged springs and malong.
While very appreciative of the food items that they have received from government and other charity organizations, many of the refugees voiced their frustration that they could still not return to their communities in Marawi City.
“We have been eating noodles and sardines for three months already. It’s better than nothing but we long for the day when we can return to our farms and start eating home-cooked food,” said Domi Magondacan, a farmer living in Tampilong, Marawi City.
“We hope we still have houses and farmlands to come home to,” added Magondacan. Although only three villages are controlled by the terrorist group that besieged Marawi, residents are still prohibited from returning to their communities.
ACN Philippines received ₱1.5 million pesos from its community of Christian donors worldwide. It is set to give a larger amount for rehabilitation of destroyed communities once the conflict in Marawi ends.
By Josemaria Claro, ACN Philippines