10/14/2008, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Ecumenical groups aid population in Mindanao

by Santosh Digal
From October 22-24, a humanitarian mission will be conducted in the autonomous Muslim region, ravaged by the war between the government army and the rebels of the MILF. The objective is to bring food, medicine, and aid to the more than 528,000 refugees hosted in 123 camps in the region.

Manila (AsiaNews) - Nongovernmental organizations, religious associations, charitable groups, and academic communities have joined forces to create a humanitarian mission in Mindanao. The network of support services has an ecumenical and institutional character, and will assist the population ravaged by the war. It is scheduled to run from October 22-24, in the autonomous Muslim region of Mindanao (ARMM): the objective is to bring aid, medicines, food, and drinking water to the 110,389 families struck by the new wave of violence.

The conflict between the army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which broke out with greater violence last August following the failure to sign a memorandum of agreement blocked by the supreme court, has so far created 528,028 refugees. In Mindanao, the new fighting has struck 354 villages in 60 different municipalities, subdivided into five cities in 11 provinces of the country. The number of refugees increases every day, as does the number of refugee camps: just recently, new centers have been opened in Anggal Mitimbang, Datu Piang, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Sheriff Aguak, and Talayan - in central Mindanao - raising the total from 107 to 123.

According to Maria Benita Clamonte, a local human rights activists, in North Lanao alone "there are 56,702 people without housing or food" because of the war. For this reason, "any kind of assistance" is welcome, and "no distinctions are being made among the various organizations": the important thing is to "confront the current crisis in an adequate manner."

On the basis of a report from Filipino civil defense, more than 161 million pesos - about 3.5 million U.S. dollars - will be needed to keep these centers functioning. 130 million pesos have already been provided by the central and local governments.

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