Zamboanga City – The Asia America Initiative (AAI), a US-based non-profit non-government organization, called on the Philippine community at large to assist in humanitarian efforts in Mindanao.
The AAI team that recently conducted a four-day “mission of hope and peace” found the thousands of evacuees housed at the evacuation centers lacked the most basic shelter, medical care and food supplies, sanitation and clean water.
The AAI has distributed last week P22 million worth of medicines and other relief goods as well as toys to the children that are temporarily sheltered in evacuation centers in Iligan City and in the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and North Cotabato.
“They had a little more than clothes on their backs and with the largest population being infants and small children,” AAI President Albert Santoli noted.
“In some cases, we had to purchase forks and spoons because they do not even have basic tools for survival,” Santoli added.
Thousands of evacuees are housed in different evacuation centers as they fled their homes after hostilities broke out following the attacks staged by the so called breakaway factions of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) led by Ameril Umbra Kato alias Commander Kato and Abdullah Macapaar alias Commander Bravo.
“They fear going back to their homes because of the growing threat of on-going armed conflict and terror attacks,” Santoli said.
He noted that the evacuees are housed at public schools, baranggay multi-purpose centers as well as in muddy fields and with impoverished relatives.
AAI Philippins Country Director and Coordinator Rohaniza Sumndad said officials and doctors at the evacuation centers have requested for trauma counselling and the need for healing children who were exposed to extreme violence even the murder of family members.
Sumndad said they have donated stuffed toys to help comfort the children at evacuation centers since the social workers in the evacuation centers have recommended that the healing activities could take the form of simple games.
The four-day mission of hope and peace conducted by the AAI was supported by student organizations and a variety of businesses, private organizations and local government units that contributed supplies, transportation and manpower to assist the evacuees.
Sumndad said they also inaugurated last week a “Gardens of Peace” project in Lanao del Sur which involves vegetable and flower gardening in public schools in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), Department of Education and the provincial government. PNA