UN team seeks continuous humanitarian aid for Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/21 November) –The United Nations (UN) has sent a team to the Philippines for a five-day mission on how best to provide humanitarian assistance to people affected by armed conflict and natural disasters.

Catherine Bragg, UN deputy emergency relief coordinator, and her team were in Cotabato City Sunday until Monday for field visits on the humanitarian efforts and meetings with government officials and other foreign aid agencies working in Southwestern Mindanao and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

She flew in to the country on Saturday and was slated to meet with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa noontime Wednesday following a meeting with the diplomatic community to ask for support to humanitarian action in Mindanao, according to her schedule of activities furnished to MindaNews.

“At least 698,000 people continue to require humanitarian aid in central Mindanao. This includes those displaced, people who have returned home or resettled elsewhere, as well as other vulnerable groups in need of assistance,” she said in a statement.

UN humanitarian agencies and partners have this year appealed for $33.3 million to fund relief operations in Mindanao. Key gaps remain in health, food security, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, shelter, protection monitoring and rehabilitation of basic social infrastructure.

In 2008, following the botched signing of the controversial Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD), war broke anew between government and Moro Islamic Liberation Front forces largely affecting communities in Maguindanao, Lanao and North Cotabato provinces.

The MOA-AD, which would have given the MILF wider political and economic power, was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

Bragg will also discuss with government officials how the international humanitarian community can best provide coordinated support to complement the country’s response to natural disasters.

She was slated to meet with Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman and Undersecretary Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council

“The Philippines is among the world’s most disaster-prone countries. The people of the Philippines live with the constant threat of typhoons, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,” said Bragg.

“The international community is here to support the government in providing the quickest and most effective response in times of crisis,” she added.

Accompanying Bragg were her Special Assistant Yannick Martin, and Philippines Desk Officer Alf Blikberg. (Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)