UN envoy: Spare Mindanao from violence

by Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Nov 23 2011 01:18 PM | Updated as of Nov 24 2011 01:34 AM

700,000 displaced by war, disasters still need relief

MANILA, Philippines - A United Nations (UN) envoy on Wednesday called on all “parties in conflict” to spare the people in Mindanao from the effects of violence.

In a press conference, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg said many people continue to be displaced from their homes as a result of conflicts and natural disasters.

Specifically, 700,000 people are still in need of humanitarian relief in central Mindanao.

“I am deeply concerned by the impact of cycles of displacement, particularly those caused by armed confrontations between government forces and armed groups, and clan fighting,” she said.

She said this is a significant decrease from the 750,000 people in 2008 but “new displacements continue to occur, partly due to clan violence known as ‘rido’.”

Bragg was on a 2-day visit in Mindanao this week, where she met with regional authorities, aid organizations and individuals to determine the victims’ needs.

The mission also aims to encourage the diplomatic community and the United Nations to infuse more help in the region, she said.

More funding for Mindanao

The UN and its partners are currently implementing a Humanitarian Action Plan in Mindanao.

For 2012, an action plan worth $37.9 million is expected to be implemented in the region through donor partners. Last year, the action plan was pegged at $33.3 million, of which, 54% is funded.

“This morning, I impressed upon the diplomatic community in Manila that the situation requires their sustained an increased support…The UN and its partners stand ready to support government-led responses to emergency situations. Emergency responders must, however, be granted unhindered independent access, and allowed to undertake essential humanitarian assessments,” she said.

She admitted that security poses obstacles to volunteers trying to deliver aid to intended recipients.

Nonetheless, the UN ensures that all parties in the region are contacted to provide safe passage for the volunteers.

Previous missions saw close coordination even with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), she said.

“We tell them that the aid we provide is neutral and impartial,” she stressed.

Not just central Mindanao

Bragg said, however, the humanitarian needs are not just in central Mindanao. “Unfortunately, people will continue to need humanitarian aid as long as conflict and violence deprive them of the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”

She said the national government has closely coordinated with the UN in its mission. She noted the government’s quick response especially during the heavy flooding in June due to monsoon rains.

She said the Philippines, as a whole, has shown remarkable resilience in facing challenges brought about by natural disasters and conflicts.

“But we must work on a much more comprehensive approach in addressing the consequences as well as the root causes and prepare for future natural disasters and conflict scenarios,” Bragg said.