Two years on, over 100,000 still have no homes to return to
May 22, 2019
MANILA – The deep
scars left by the 2017 conflict in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur in
southern Philippines, continue to haunt over 100,000 people who
still do not have a home to return to.
“Despite the numerous aid
efforts that have truly helped those in need over the two years, the
people of Marawi have grown tired and frustrated. They want to stand
on their own feet again and stop depending on assistance,” said
Martin Thalmann, head of the International Committee of the Red
Cross (ICRC) delegation in the Philippines.
Whether they’ve been
living with relatives or are in evacuation centres and transition
sites, the displaced people of Marawi struggle for access to potable
water, viable livelihood opportunities and most importantly,
Thalmann noted that the
authorities were trying to address complex issues so that the
rehabilitation of the most affected area (MAA) could begin.
But the conflict has left
more vulnerable groups, such as families of missing people and
victims of violence, with “invisible” scars.
“The wounds that do not
bleed are the wounds that become scars. And these are the most
painful because they will always leave something to look at.
Something that will always bring back memories of what happened.
Nevertheless, it is still important because it is still a lesson,”
recalled “Mel” (not his real name), a 34-year-old resident who was
severely traumatized by the Marawi conflict.
Launched in October 2018,
the ICRC’s mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programme
has reached close to 700 people. Among them, 47 people who were
severely traumatized in the Marawi conflict – including “Mel” – have
reported feeling “relieved, comfortable, safe and understood” after
undergoing individual MHPSS sessions.
“They need sustained
support to recover mentally from the trauma caused by the conflict
that has affected their overall well-being,” Thalmann said.
Talking about the ICRC’s
next step, Thalmann said the organization would work on
strengthening the capacity of the public health system in the area
of psychosocial support to victims of violence.
The ICRC, with its partner
the Philippine Red Cross, has been supporting people affected since
the onset of the Marawi conflict. People who were injured during the
fighting received ICRC support to cover the cost of their medical
treatment. Those with physical disabilities as result of injuries
were supported by ICRC to receive prosthesis and physiotherapy.
The organization continues
to help the displaced people by restoring sources of income and
improving access to water and sanitation in various sites. It has
also been working with families whose loved ones went missing due to
“We have been filling the
gaps in the recovery response in coordination with the authorities
and other aid organizations. But we can only do so much. The
authorities still have the primary responsibility of providing
sustainable solutions to help the people of Marawi,” Thalmann said.
The ICRC is a neutral,
impartial and independent organization whose exclusively
humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims
of armed conflict and other situations of violence and to provide
them with assistance. It has an international mandate to promote
knowledge for and compliance of international humanitarian law.