Central Mindanao: helping vulnerable families return to normal life

As part of its targeted assistance to the most vulnerable families, affected by the consequences of the conflict in Central Mindanao, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) will release 13 million fish fingerlings into the marsh areas to help people get back on their feet and regain normalcy.

Around 220,000 tilapia fingerlings will be released today in Barangays Libungan Torreta and Matilac in North Cotabato to support the meager income of families who were displaced due to the hostilities in August 2008 and the host community. More than 2.3 million fingerlings have been released in the past three weeks in Datu Salibo and Mamasapano in Maguindanao.

Jan Kannanthodath, ICRC economic security delegate in Cotabato, said the ICRC shifted from rapid relief intervention to a more sustainable approach in response to the needs of the vulnerable persons who do not have stable means to earn a living.

He said assessments made two years after the massive displacement showed that while vulnerable people developed a coping mechanism to find food on their own, they did not earn good income from farming, fishing and pedicab driving.

“Releasing millions of fingerlings would increase the number of fish in the Liguasan Marsh after it dwindled from overfishing. The fingerlings are also expected to breed by themselves—thus ensuring a constant abundance of fish in the area,” said Jan.

Jan added that the “global approach” meant that the general population in Central Mindanao—and not only the vulnerable families—will gain from fishing the fast-growing tilapias in three months.

“They want to go back home but what will they go back to? Their houses are destroyed. Aside from security concerns, they said they will only go back if they have livelihood there,” said Abubakar Rahman, barangay captain of Libungan Toreta which continues to host some 400 displaced persons.

“The fingerlings will really help them to earn more for their families,“ he added.

Aside from the fingerlings, the ICRC will distribute rice seeds and tools to approximately 2,000 vulnerable families to restart their farming. Another 3,000 vulnerable families will also benefit from vegetable seeds that they can cultivate in their own backyard. The seeds distribution will start in September.

Training sessions will also be conducted by the ICRC to teach best practices to farmers and fishermen. Up to 350 farmers and fishermen will participate in the sessions, to be held after Ramadan.

In the past few months, several projects to improve access to water, sanitation, and health facilities have been completed for both displaced and resident communities in Central Mindanao, benefiting some 35,000 people.

Support through provision of medicines continues for hospitals and health centers in the southern region.

A more sustainable approach, however, is being adopted to ensure that water systems are able to cope in case there is another influx of people. Extensions to the water systems and communal water points are being considered for nine barangays in Pikit, North Cotabato. A similar approach will be applied in other areas of Central Mindanao.

For more details on the award, please contact:
Allison Lopez, ICRC communication officer, 0908-8686884
or visit www.icrc.org