Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Lack of food, medicines hound Mindanao refugees

Evacuees in Mindanao. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / May 26, 2009) - Imagine if you used to eating canned sardines the whole week, perhaps the entire month without feeling satiated or if you have nothing else for dinner, but rice and salt. And imagine a food ration card used as collateral to pay for hospital bills.

This is now the dilemma of refugees now housed in temporary shelters in Datu Piang town in Maguindanao, one of five provinces under the Muslim autonomous region and they are left with no choice, but depend on food rations by the World Food Program and International Committee of the Red Cross.

Worse, many have resorted to selling their food rations. They sold everything - cooking oil, sardines, noodles and even coffee for half of its original price - to buy a descent food for the family and children.

“Every day and every meal are the same – sardines, noodles, etc. That’s the reason why we sell our ration so we can buy fresh eggs or fish at the market for the children. What are we going to do with cooking oil if we can’t even buy an egg or fish,” one refugee told the Mindanao Examiner.
The situation in refugee shelters is getting worse, they said. “With no support from local governments or no medicines for the children, how can we survive here and we cannot go back to our village because of the fighting between rebels and soldiers,” another refugee said.

Many traders, some from as far as Sultan Kudarat province, have taken advantage of the situation, buying food rations distributed to refugees at bargain prices. And these rations find its way to small stores; their labels peeled off or painted to hide markings that they are not for sale and they sell at grocery prices.

One refugee rushed their malnourished child to hospital and was forced to use their food ration card as collateral for the medical bills. Tens of thousands of refugees are still in different evacuation shelters in Datu Piang.

The MILF said some 600,000 people were displaced by the war in Mindanao. (Ferdinandh Cabrera)

No comments: