MANILA - UNICEF Philippines expressed concern over the welfare of children affected by the ongoing conflict between the goverment and terrorist groups in Marawi City.
The agency estimates around 50,000 children have been displaced by the conflict within Marawi City or other cities in Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte.
"We are deeply concerned about actions that may put children’s life and safety at risk and disrupts their overall development or access to basic social services such as education and health care. The estimated tens of thousands of children who, along with their families, have been displaced in and out of Marawi, could face severe long-term impact on their psycho-social health, their physical health as well as having their education disrupted," warned UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander.
She also expressed concern that some children may have been used in the conflict, either as combatants, informants or as human shield against government forces.
UNICEF also called on all involved parties to the conflict and other government agencies to ensure the safety of children, as well as undisrupted access to healthcare, nutrition, water and sanitation services.
With the academic year resuming across the country this month, Sylwander also called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and local government agencies to ensure that schools in Marawi City and surrounding areas re-open on time.
"Schools provide support to give children a sense of normalcy on their return, and gives easy access to children and their families for more specific interventions and services," she said.
Sylwander also urged local governments and law enforcement agencies to clear areas near schools and residential areas of any explosives that may put children and other residents at risk.
"It is very important to keep children away from harm and injuries as they travel back to their communities or to their schools," she said.
Working with its partners both in the national government and in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), UNICEF stands ready to assist local government agencies and civil society in the delivery of basic services to the affected communities in and around Marawi City.