Clashes force 11,600 residents of remote Maguindanao town to leave homes

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 4 Dec) – As most relief efforts are focused on Marawi, 11,600 people have also been displaced from their homes for months in a remote municipality of Maguindanao due to armed clashes.

Help from ICRC comes to displaced residents of Shariff Saydona Mustapha. Photo courtesy of ICRC

Tomoko Matsuzawa, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) office based in Cotabato City, said the evacuees come from the municipality of Shariff Saydona Mustapha, a municipality created only in 2009.

Data from the local police showed the residents were displaced by the ongoing fighting between government forces and armed groups operating in the area.

The clashes, which started last August, were also monitored in Barangay Salbu in Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Barangay Pagatin in Datu Salibo, and villages from Mamasapano and Shariff Aguak, all in Maguindanao.

On Saturday, Matsuzawa said the ICRC, with support from the Philippine Red Cross, provided the IDPs food and other supplies, which would last at least 15 days.

Each family received 25 kilos of rice, a liter of soy sauce, a liter of cooking oil, 12 tin cans of 425 grams of sardines, a kilo of sugar, half kilo of table salt, two jerry cans of 20 liters each, and hygiene items for the household.

Matsuzawa said that while the attention over the recent months has been mostly focused on the Marawi conflict, several communities in Maguindanao have also been seriously affected by armed clashes.

“We remain concerned about their plight as they have been displaced for more than three months,” she said.

The evacuees had been deprived of basic necessities as intense fighting continues in the area, the ICRC said.

Some residents, however, had returned home to plant rice and other crops but are staying closed to the roads so they could flee anytime the clashes would erupt, the ICRC added.

“These families have reduced the number of meals to two per day, and also limited them in variety. It is important that as people try and restore their lives, they receive basic support to do so,” Matsuzawa said. (Malu Cadelina Manar / MindaNews)