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It's Not Fair: Kids in Marawi Face New War vs. COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis is thwarting the city's recovery efforts from the past war.
by Jam Nitura
May 22, 2020
Photo/s: Courtesy of Save the Children Philippines

Another battle is taking place in Marawi and this one may be a losing one. 

It’s only been three years since 12-year-old Bailiya and her family barely survived the Marawi Siege, a five-month long armed struggle between government forces and ISIS-inspired Maute groups.

Marawi is still in the process of rebuilding what was lost, yet another crisis threatens to hamper its recovery. “Our lives back then were difficult,” says Bailiya. “However, it is twice as difficult this time because our house was destroyed, and we have no school to go back to.”

 As of May 17, 2020, Marawi and Lanao del Sur have confirmed nine COVID-19 cases, along with four reported deaths, and 40 patients under investigation. While numbers continue to rise around the country, it seems respite from their past tragedy remains a far-off dream for Bailiya and the rest of her community. 

Incidentally the long-term effects of the Marawi crisis only further places its children and their families at critical odds against the coronavirus due to the lack of clean water, toilets, and other hygiene facilities in transitory shelters where Bailiya currently resides.

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“Children bear the brunt of armed conflict as they suffer from severe malnutrition, diseases including COVID-19 as healthcare and food supplies are disrupted,” Atty. Albert Muyot, Chief Executive of Save the Children Philippines says.

In light of this, Save the Children, an independent organization that responds to childrens needs amidst varying crises, is ramping up their relief operations in the city. In the span of three years, they’ve managed to provide 48,475 children and 9,492 adults with necessary aid, including learning materials, psychosocial first aid, and temporary learning spaces.

Now with COVID-19 in tow, the organization has also started distributing handwashing facilities in checkpoints and quarantine facilities in Marawi. Aside from this, children and their families are also receiving hygiene kits, while food packs are handed over to medical front liners. Save the Children Philippines has also seen to it that the community has access to safe drinking water, and that toilet areas are rehabilitated as soon as possible. 

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314 households received hygiene sustainable kits in Brgy. Tangcal Tubaran, Lanao del Sur. Courtesy of Save the Children

Children are encouraged to return to school. “Education is a life-saving response as it provides children a safe space to learn, provides normality, routine and ensures their protection.” Edwin Horca, the Head of Save the Children Philippines-Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao office, explains.  “Learning spaces also provide protection to children from threats of sexual violence, harmful work and recruitment into armed groups.”

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Aside from providing back-to-school kits, Save the Children has also responded with humanitarian support by means of training teachers on child protection, the minimum standards on education in emergencies, as well as art workshops themed on peace for children and youth.

In a statement, the independent organization says it will “continue to provide emergency assistance for the reconstruction and recovery of Marawi with new partnerships with the Asian Development Bank and the private sector,” where all efforts will be aligned with the national government, and Task Force Bangon Marawi

“We are harnessing resources, local and foreign, to ensure that the affected people of Marawi are never forgotten,” Horca says.

Want to lend a hand? Find out how you can help the children of Marawi and their families by visiting Save the Children Philippines’ official website.