Death stalks evacuees

Poor conditions at Zambo evacuation centers kill 81

A CATHOLIC Church official on Friday expressed alarm over the rising number of deaths in evacuation centers in Zamboanga City, saying that various illnesses are claiming a life every day.

The death toll in evacuation centers in Zamboanga City has climbed to 81 as of Feb. 12, Msgr. Crisologo Manongas, administrator of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, said, noting that at least one evacuee has been dying every day in recent weeks.

Pitiful sights. Zamboanga City residents try to go
on with their lives five months after the Zamboanga
City seige in September.
“One person dies every day. I think more than half of them are children,” Manongas said.

Senator Nancy Binay cited the same figures from the Zamboanga City Health Office and urged national agencies not to forget those living in the evacuation centes.

“Are we just going to bring them to the evacuation centers and then forget about them?” she asked.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has already appealed to various private and government health institutions to extend help to thousands of evacuees at the Don Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex in Zamboanga City who were displaced after the bloody terror attack by members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in September last year.

A total of 118,819 evacuees are still living in dirty conditions at the evacuation center. They survived the deadly attack but are now fighting to survive against illnesses, the church official said.

Manongas criticized the government for its failure to address the poor conditions of the evacuees

He said the displaced families continue to languish in evacuation centers as the government’s rehabilitation efforts has remained too slow.

“The situation is still the same. Nothing has improved. It’s the same old story,” he said.

The Zamboanga archdiocese continues to conduct programs to help the evacuees despite their limited resources through the help of other dioceses.

“We are going on with our relief effort and relocation. We are building permanent homes for a number of families... that’s an ongoing effort,” he said.

At least 80 houses were built by the archdiocese from their target of 400 permanent shelters.

The refugees are billeted at the Don Joaquin
Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex. CBCP Photos
“Of course we lack (resources) because we are not receiving ample help anymore. I understand assistance [coming in is] for victims of [typhoon] Yolanda and [the earthquake] in Bohol,” he said.

But Binay in a separate interview said the Social Welfare and Health departments should not focus only on the victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

She underscored the need for long term monitoring of the condition of those staying in evacuation centers.

Thousands have been displaced by a spate of man-made and natural calamitie that hit the country in recent years, including typhoons Pablo, Sendong and Yolanda and the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which struck Bohol and Cebu.

An alliance Yolanda survivors in the Visayas on Friday vowed bigger and stronger protests against the government as they commemorate the 100th day after the killer typhoon struck. The group had given the government until Friday to act on their petition to grant P40,000 assistance to each surviving family.

The alliance, called People Surge, gathered 12,000 protesters in Tacloban City, which was hardest hit by Yolanda, to demonstrate against the government’s slow response to the disaster.

President Benigno Aquino III earlier announced a multi-billion-peso “build back better” program to rebuild communities devastated by Yolanda on Nov. 8, but survivors in the worst-hit areas said most of the aid they have received came not from the government but from international humanitarian organizations.

“Three months after typhoon Yolanda, the situation of the survivors has gone from worse to worst. Hunger and neglect continue to haunt them everyday, “ said June Benino, secretary general of the leftist group Bayan.

He also hit the government’s policy to forbid building within 40 meters of the coast.

More than 40,000 storm survivors have remained in tent Cities and temporary shelters as the government ‘s turn-over of bunkhouses has been slow.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., on an inspection of the bunkhouses in Tacloban and Palo in Leyte said he found them “wanting.”

The Palace, on the other hand, said 1,373 families have already moved to 60 completed bunkhouses in Leyte, Eastern Samar and Samar.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said the government hoped to finish the bunkhouses by the end of February.

Berino said that the victims needed housing closer to their livelihood, and said the national government should consult the victims before deciding on policies that affect them.

Earlier in the week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said the government’s response in providing shelter and livelihood to the victims of typhoon Yolanda was not enough. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Ronald O. Reyes


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