Thousands flee fighting in 3 Mindanao provinces

File photo of Lumad evacuees from Balaodo, Barangay St. Peter in Malaybalay City camping out in front of the provincial capitol in the city. The evacuees said they left their homes for fear of the Alamara paramilitary group. MindaNews file photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/27 March) – The hunt for communist rebels and Islamic State-affiliated armed groups has displaced thousands of residents in Mindanao, a humanitarian agency said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said over 50,000 residents in Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur were displaced after military operations intensified against armed groups identified with the ISIS last week.

The bulk of internally displaced persons (IDP), numbering 39,600 individuals, came from Maguindanao where the military has been fighting the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters since February.

“The IDPs left their homes in their haste to escape the fighting,” Meher Khatcherian, who heads the ICRC in Lanao del Sur, said.

Khatcherian said over 1,800 families or 9,000 individuals were displaced in Lanao del Sur last week as the military hunted the remnants of the Maute group that seized Marawi city in 2017.

He said the affected families from Tubaran and Pagayawan towns in Lanao del Sur have fled to the nearby town of Marugong.

“Living conditions are difficult for those in evacuation centers due to limited access to water and sanitary facilities,” he said.

Khatcherian said food supply was running out, as the calamity funds of the local governments have dried up.

He said the ICRC has rushed in additional food packs to the evacuees as well as medical supplies and is constructing toilet facilities.

In Bukidnon province, armed clashes had displaced around 180 families in Malaybalay City and San Fernando town since end-February, the ICRC said.

It said the evacuees slept on the floor without mats and blankets in evacuation centers and lacked access to water and sanitation facilities. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)