02/26/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Mindanao: EU sends fresh aid to 100 thousand refugees

by Santosh Digal
Aid amounts to 5 million euros. It will allow victims of the war between Islamic rebels and the army to return to their homes.

Manila (AsiaNews)-In the Muslim majority region of Mindanao more than 100 thousand people still live in refugee camps and families shelters. This two years from the resumption of the conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Philippine military. The situation was revealed in a report by the European Union (EU) Delegation in the Philippines, which yesterday provided some 5 million euros in humanitarian aid for the refugee population.

"This new assistance will continue our help to the IDPs with food, shelter and basic health-care, as well as assisting their host communities," said Alistair MacDonald, ambassador of the EU in the Philippines. The program will include educational courses and psychological assistance for children and young victims of war. Macdonald points out that the purpose of funding is to enable the people to return to their homes and rebuild a normal life, security conditions permitting.

The first provinces to receive the new funding will be: Maguindanao, North Cotabato, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. From 2008 to now the EU has donated more than 17.5 million euros in aid for displaced victims of war.  

The Muslim majority region of Mindanao has been the scene of a conflict between Philippine army and Islamic extremist groups for more than 40 years. They claim the domain of the island for centuries to establish an independent Islamic state. After 10 years of ceasefire, fighting resumed in August 2008, causing over 750 thousand refugees between Christians and Muslims. In recent years the Catholic Church and Islamic organizations, like the Bishop Ulama Forum, have promoted a path of dialogue. In September 2009 in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) MILF and Philippine government reopened negotiations to end the conflict. The next meeting of three parties is scheduled for tomorrow in Cotabato.  

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