» 05/04/2009 16:14

UN-backed report says Philippines had highest number of newly displaced people in 2008
Santosh Digal
Fighting between the Filipino army and rebels forces 600,000 people to flee their homes. Muslim Moros and indigenous people are the most affected by the violence. Children suffer the most from malnutrition and human trafficking. Sudan has the largest number of refugees, 4.9 million.

Manila (AsiaNews) – The Philippines had the highest number of newly displaced people in 2008, a United Nations-backed report said. With fighting between the government and a break-away faction of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the immediate cause, some 600,000 Filipinos were forced to flee their homes following the aborted signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MoA-AD) that sought to create a Bangsa Moro homeland for the rebels.

The number of Mindanao internally displaced people—600,000 at the height of  skirmishes last year—is higher than the “massive new displacements” in Sudan (550,000), Kenya (500,000), Democratic Republic of Congo (at least 400,000), Iraq (360,000), Pakistan (over 310,000), Somalia (300,000), Colombia (270,000 to June 2008), and Sri Lanka (230,000).

Muslim Moros and indigenous groups are the most affected by the violence. Their land is rich in natural resources and the bone of contention between the army and rebels.

Operations against Communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels, with their corollary of human rights violations, and Abu Sayyaf Group in Basilan and Sulu provinces have also increased the number of displaced people.

Displaced children, many of whom have had their education interrupted by their displacement, have become vulnerable to trafficking, recruitment into armed groups, malnutrition and health problems due to their prolonged stay in overcrowded emergency centers.

United Nations experts noted that despite genuine government efforts to assist the displaced and improve its response, more remains to be done.

By the end of 2008 about 300,000 people remained unable or unwilling to return to their homes, according to the report.

According to the 2008 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) of the Norwegian Refugee Council, international efforts failed to reduce the number of those internally displaced by conflicts around the world which was unchanged from the previous year at around 26 million, the highest level since the mid-1990s.

The country with the most displaced people continued to be Sudan, with 4.9 million followed by Colombia (4.3 million) and Iraq (2.8 million).

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