ICRC on watch for increased health risks among IDPs from Marawi fighting

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Saguiaran evacuation center
Internally displaced persons taking temporary shelter at Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. Photograph from ICRC.

Manila – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in the country has manifested concerns that start of the rainy season may add medical and health burdens to the thousands of people displaced by the fighting in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur.

ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization that protects and assists victims of armed conflict. It has a mandate to promote knowledge on and respect for international humanitarian law.

It observed an increase in the number of reported cases of diarrhea, upper respiratory infection, hypertension and fever in various health facilities providing medical assistance to the displaced residents, particularly those who are staying in evacuation centers.

“We may have survived the fighting in Marawi, but I’m still concerned for the children and old people like me. Now that we’re here at the evacuation center, everything seems so uncertain. The rains are so strong and many are getting sick,” said Alimpay Macaagir, a 64-year-old evacuee at a covered court in Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.

More than 200,000 people have been displaced by the fighting in Marawi City, the majority of the evacuees temporarily seeking shelter with their relatives.

On the other hand, thousands of them who have nowhere to go are crammed in evacuation centers, within and outside the city, for more than two weeks now.

According to Jose Amigo, Health Coordinator of the ICRC in the Philippines, the increase in the number of infirmities is due to the displaced population’s current living condition: “They — particularly children and the elderlies — become at risk to water-borne diseases because of limited access to basic water and sanitation facilities. They also become prone to communicable diseases because of the limited space in evacuation centers.”

Amigo added that the health situation is “not yet critical at this point, but we fear that this may worsen in the coming days with prolonged displacement.”

In support of the local health units’ efforts to address this concern, the ICRC has been working closely with hospitals and other health facilities within and around Marawi City to augment their existing capacity.

To date, ICRC has provided additional medicines and medical supplies to 11 hospitals and health facilities in Iligan and Balo-i in Lanao del Norte, and Tamparan, Balindong, Piagapo, Saguiaran and Marawi in Lanao del Sur.

ICRC has also supported the mini-hospital setup by the rural health unit in Saguiaran by providing 10 folding beds for patients, and a supplementary kit of essential medicines and medical supplies sufficient to serve 10,000 individuals for three months.

“We have been working closely with the Department of Health (DOH) since the fighting in Marawi broke out, and we commend the good job that they have been doing on the ground despite all the challenges that they face. The ICRC will continue to be one of the active partners of DOH, supporting its efforts in providing the much needed medical assistance to the people affected by the conflict,” said Amigo.