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More Filipino children are displaced on World Refugee Day!

In the recent months, more than hundred families are being displaced from their homes because of the continuous military operations in their area. Families from rural communities from northern part of the country Abra to the southern part of Sulu are escaping the wrath of military operations conducted of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on areas perceived to be lair of communist insurgents or Moslem separatist. At present, families belonging to the Ata-Matigsaluk tribe from Compostela Valley, are staying in a gymnasium turned evacuation center in Bankerohan, Davao City. More than 90 children are constantly exposed to physical hazards and emotional stress. This situation further compounded their poverty and highlighted the scarcity of social and welfare services. A high level of anxiety and distress as well as increasing cases of illness especially among children is reeking in every nook and corner of the center.

This situation is further highlighted as we commemorate the annual World Refugee Day today. We are reminded of the devastating effects of displacement on the lives and property of millions of people affected by armed conflict. In a study conducted by the Internal Dsiplacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) for the year 2007, 26 million people were estimated to have been displaced brought by armed conflict. This is also the highest recorded data since the early 1990s. Needless to say, behind the numerical figures are the horrifying tales of trauma and grim images of despair. In our country alone, families who fled from their homes because of continuous military operations conducted by the AFP can be found cramped in open ground with stark images of women and children bounded in fear and uncertainty.

According to Ms.Macaspac, executive director of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, “ While the accurate number of people being victims of internal displacement may be difficult to establish, one can easily estimate that millions have already been affected through the four-decade internal strife.” She further stressed that with the counter-insurgency campaign being waged by the present administration, the target of attacks are directed not only against the insurgents but on communities perceived to be hotbeds as well. “This disruption on the children’s daily routine, though they are resilient and have their own coping mechanisms for survival, has evident impact on their mental, physical, educational and general well-being”, she added.

Macaspac challenged the present administration to bear its primary responsibility to protect civilians and children especially as embodied in international humanitarian laws governing conflict situations like the International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Protocol II. “It is high time that this present administration starts to walk the talk and stops passing the buck to others in order to escape its accountability,” Macaspac further added.###