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Floods increase health risk for Zamboanga evacuees, Red Cross warns

A flooded tent in Zamboanga City's Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex, which houses thousands of residents displaced by the recent fighting between government forces and the MNLF. (photo by A. Jacinto, ICRC/
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines -- Flooding in Zamboanga City caused by torrential rains early this month has increased the health risks faced by thousands of people displaced by the recent fighting between government forces and the Moro National Liberation Front, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned.

“Chest-deep floods in some villages placed an additional strain on the city’s residents” as “new evacuation centers have opened to accommodate new flood victims, along with families who have had to leave seriously flooded centers like the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex,” the ICRC said in a statement released Friday.

"With all this rain, it's muddy even inside our tent and the children are getting ill. We really want to go back to our house now but they said it's all burned down," the ICRC quoted Mia Juwaran, a resident of Barangay Rio Hondo whose family has found shelter along the Cawa-Cawa shoreline, as saying.

"The flooding degraded sanitation and hygiene in many evacuation centrers, while high winds destroyed shelters, piling extra misery onto people who were already living in very difficult conditions," ICRC delegate Sebastien Sujobert said.

He also noted that, "While most of the floods have subsided, there is still stagnant water in some areas. The health risks remain high as we expect rains to continue this season."

The ICRC said most of the 41,000 people still in 29 evacuation centers “will probably have to stay there for the next two months, as shelling or flooding have damaged many houses.”

Others have lost their means of livelihood.

"Many people are not allowed to go back to their villages, as the authorities are still conducting clearing operations. Heavy rains have slowed down those operations, delaying their return," said Victor Liozo Jr., administrator of the Philippine Red Cross’ Zamboanga chapter.

Between 5 and 16 October, the ICRC and PRC delivered emergency aid, improved sanitation, provided basic health care and improved living conditions for displaced people.

ICRC teams, including medical personnel, also visited and registered 285 detained rebel suspects, monitoring their treatment and supplying them with clothes and toiletries.

It also donated 10 tons of rice and 6,000 cans of sardines to the PRC chapter in Basilan for distribution to 2,000 families affected by floods and a brief outburst of fighting there.