Story by Jerome Lanit, Emergency Coordinator, CARE Philippines
After days of hearing non-stop gunshots, bombings and agonies from people affected by the bloody armed conflict in Marawi City, 77-year-old widow Dipumbae finally saw a glimpse of light. On early Wednesday morning of September 27, she patiently waited for her turn to receive cash assistance given in a village in Lanao del Sur where she temporarily stays with her family.
On 23 May 23 2017, a group of Islamic State (ISIS)-associated militants locally known as Maute Group mercilessly invaded Marawi City in Mindanao, south of Philippines. The militants burned homes, hospitals, churches, schools, mosques, and shot everyone who stood against their way. According to reports, the Maute Group’s primary objective was to establish the first ISIS caliphate in Southeast Asia.
More than 300,000 people were affected and displaced when government forces waged an all-out war against the Maute Group. Government troops were able to exterminate key militant leaders and rescued innocent people and hostages from the battle zone. There were clashes between the troops and terrorists at some parts of the city leaving many residents including Dipumbae unable to return to their homes.
In response to the Marawi crisis, CARE, in partnership with Agri-Aqua Development Coalition Mindanao (AADC) and Al Mujadilah Development Foundation (AMDF), provided cash assistance to home-based internally displaced people (IDPs) and some host families. These IDPs escaped the armed conflict by staying with relatives or friends in a safer location.
“It is really difficult for me to stay in someone else’s home. I really miss my house. Now we have to depend on relief assistance to survive as we don’t have livelihood here to buy food and things we need,” shared Dipumbae.
“I have a total of ten children and grandchildren with me and often struggle to support our basic needs every single day. My relative is also poor and it pains me to see that we also add to their burden,” she added.
Dipumbae couldn’t help but cry whenever she thinks of her house in Marawi and their current situation. Their normal lives were disrupted and her grandchildren couldn’t go to school.
“Marawi City is no longer a city and looks like an ancient ruin. Devastation is everywhere,” describes AMDF staff Linky who is also from Marawi.
“Marawi was a sprawling urban city but now it’s far from being that. I just hope that we still have a house to return to because apart from the constant bombing and looting, burglary has become a problem now.”
“The government and other humanitarian actors should also support the affected population to recover or else a new breed of Maute Group will surface to demand justice and retribution,” she continued with great worry and tinge of uncertainty for the future.
After receiving cash assistance from CARE and its partners, Dipumbae said she allotted a portion of it for her grandchildren’s school fees. Some would be spent for medicine and the rest is for buying fresh food like vegetable and fish.
“I am very grateful to CARE because they have given us cash assistance, we can now buy those important needs of our family and fresh food,” she added.
Dipumbae has the same concern echoed by women IDPs from Marawi. She said that affected women like her would need assistance on livelihoods recovery so that they would no longer rely on aid and have the capacity to provide for themselves.
“I had a small retail store in Marawi but it was destroyed after the conflict. All I need is a little capital to start over. Even if I no longer have that space, I will just find another one,” Dipumbae said.
“Women affected by the crisis are suffering but we need to remain strong for our families. We don’t have money for medicines and hospitalization in case we get sick. We need to take good care of ourselves amidst challenging living conditions and keep our children, surroundings, and bodies clean to avoid any illness.”
With the Marawi crisis slowly winding down, all eyes are set on recovery. CARE and its partners in Mindanao are committed to provide life-saving and early recovery support to the displaced population.
Livelihoods recovery assistance involving women, psychosocial & sexual reproductive health support to affected families through ‘Family Conversation Sessions’ and also shelter repair will be CARE’s top priorities as affected people slowly pick up the pieces towards recovery.
*Due to the sensitivity of the topic, Dipumbae doesn’t want her full name to be disclosed nor her photo to be used.
Photo credit: Al Mujadillah Foundation