MANILA - The Marawi Anti-Crime Movement is urging government forces and militants to allow food aid into the city as hunger continued to worsen among residents in war zones.
Samira Gutoc, chairperson of the group, said some residents trapped in Marawi war zones have resorted to eating leaves and even cardboard boxes due to food shortage.
She said martial law being declared over the entire Mindanao did not fast-track aid distribution in Marawi.
"The martial law was supposed to fast-track relief but it is not doing that. Twenty-eight days with no access tof food within the areas of Marinaut, the commercial area, Banggolo plaza...these are areas where people are eating God knows what," he said.
She said the situation is a "double burden" for Muslims in these areas, noting that many Muslims are told to fast all day in observance of Ramadan "but at night, when they are allowed to eat, there is nothing to eat."
"We’re asking the Philippine Army, government, and the Maute group to let the food in, especially in evacuation centers in the first district—and hirap daw pumasok doon," she said.
"In Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, it’s so easy; but in Lanao del Sur, where most of the 200,000 are, the food convoys have a hard time as you saw the congressman who went in," she added, referring to Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate who tried to enter the besieged city last week.
The fighting began on May 23 when hundreds of militants rampaged through Marawi, the most important Muslim city in the mainly Catholic Philippines, waving the black flags of the Islamic State (IS) group. Most of the city's 200,000 residents fled during the early stages of the fighting.
The militants have since withstood a relentless, US-backed bombing campaign and intense ground battles with Filipino troops that have left large parts of Marawi resembling devastated cities in war-torn Syria and Iraq.
One of the keys to their survival has been the trapped civilians, who are acting as human shields in stopping the military from completely destroying the small areas controlled by the gunmen.
Even so, entire streets are now just full of rubble and the military's bombs have not always hit their targets -- with one strike going astray and killing 10 soldiers.