MANILA – Bailiya was only nine years old when her hometown was destroyed by the five-month gun battle between the government forces and ISIS-inspired Maute group which started on May 23, 2017. The Marawi siege has flattened homes, schools, infrastructures, and displaced 200,000 children and their families.
“Our lives back then were difficult,” said Bailiya, 12, one of the beneficiaries of Save the Children Philippines’ education program and an internally displaced learner at Angoyao Elementary School. “However, it is twice difficult this time because our house was destroyed and we have no school to go back to.” Bailiya’s family, along with her seven siblings, live in a transitory shelter in Barangay Boganga in Marawi.
To make matters worse for Bailiya and children like her, there are already nine confirmed cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur as of May 17, with four deaths and 40 cases of patients under investigation (PUI) based on the regional health office in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
Lawyer Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said the impact of conflict on children has lasting implications and goes beyond even if it has ended.
He said children and their families in Marawi are more at risk of diseases including Covid-19 as clean water, toilets and hygiene facilities remain a problem in the transitory shelters.
“Children bear the brunt of armed conflict as they suffer from severe malnutrition, diseases including Covid-19 as healthcare and food supplies are disrupted,” said Muyot. Children’s right to education must be fulfilled even in times of emergencies, he added.
In this regard, Save the Children Philippines continues to help children and their families to rebuild lives in Marawi amid uncertainties and risks of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For the past three years, Save the Children Philippines has been providing emergency and recovery assistance to children and their families affected by the Marawi siege, reaching 48,475 children and 9,492 adults. These include learning materials, psychosocial first aid, and temporary learning spaces to ensure children will continue learning during the crisis.
Recently, Save the Children has distributed handwashing facilities in checkpoints and quarantine facilities in Marawi City. The team also distributed hygiene kits to children and their families, food packs to medical front-liners, and provided assistance to families to access potable water supply and promote hygiene. The team supported the rehabilitation of latrines and the construction of toilets in the areas where temporary learning spaces were installed.
Edwin Horca, head of Save the Children Philippines-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said “education is a life-saving response as it provides children a safe space to learn, provides normality, routine and ensures their protection”.
As such, Save the Children Philippines provided temporary learning spaces, back to school kits, and hygiene kits to motivate children to go back to school.
“Learning spaces also provide protection to children from threats of sexual violence, harmful work, and recruitment into armed groups,” said Horca.
The humanitarian support also includes training of teachers on child protection and the minimum standards on education in emergencies, as well as art workshops themed on peace for children and youth.
Children’s access to education, water, sanitation and hygiene and child protection were supported by the Department of Foreign and Trade of the Government of Australia, Radiojhalpen/ Swedish Music Aid, and European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.
Save the Children Philippines will continue to provide emergency assistance for the reconstruction and recovery of Marawi with new partnerships with the Asian Development Bank and the private sector. These efforts will be aligned with the national government’s recovery and rehabilitation plan under Task Force Bangon Marawi.
Horca said the new programs will complement the recovery and rehabilitation programs of the national government and SCP-BARMM to ensure access to income and livelihood of conflict-affected families, and those in host communities.
“We are harnessing resources, local and foreign, to ensure that the affected people of Marawi are never forgotten,” said Horca.
Save the Children Philippines is one with the people in the commemoration of the survivors and heroes of the Marawi Siege and encourages everyone to help and support its programs for the continued protection and the rebuilding of the lives of those affected, most especially the children. (ia/SCP)