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Health crisis looms as 31 Marawi City refugees die in shelters




The evacuation centre in Saguiaran. Picture courtesy of the International Committee of the Red Cross, via Twitter

Thirty-one refugees who fled the siege of Marawi City have died due to disease, a health official said today (Wednesday, July 5).

Eight of the deaths were due to diarrhoea and dehydration while the others were caused by strokes, pneumonia and blood infection.

Other recorded health problems in the evacuation shelters include acute respiratory tract infection, skin diseases, hypertension, and fever.

Health chiefs have warned that antibiotics, IV fluids and water purifying tablets were in short supply. There are also concerns over child malnutrition as fighting between Islamic State-affiliated militants and government forces entered its 44th day.

Alinader Minalang, head of the Integrated Provincial Health Office, said: “Based on our findings, many babies and children are becoming malnourished because they are dependent on relief goods. Even parents are having problems.”

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The medical station at Saguiaran evacuation centre is crowded with patients, mainly children, suffering a variety of conditions.

Among them is four-month-old Hafis Omar who has been diagnosed with a viral infection or meningitis.

Fighting back her tears, his mother, Samsia Omar, said: “I endure having no money. I want my baby to get well soon but I cannot bring him to a hospital. I want him to get well like a normal child.”

Two-month-old Saino Panaarad has been placed on an IV drip due to persistent coughing and fever.

His mother Hasmin said: “My baby can’t breathe and he has colds. The doctor said my baby has a lot of phlegm due to colds.”

The total number of people displaced by the fighting in Marawi is estimated at up to 400,000, spread across evacuation centres or homes of friends and relatives.

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Local authorities have now begun constructing a temporary shelter in Marawi to decongest existing evacuation centres.

Evacuee Farhana Hassan said: “We don’t want to stay near the conflict zone. The children might get scared. They are already scared of gunshots and yet we’ll still go there.”

Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra has pledged that the new shelter would be safe from attacks and stray bullets.

Brigadier General Ramiro Rey, head of Joint Task Group Lanao said the temporary shelters would be convenient for the evacuees “We will not just put up tents. It will be something presentable and acceptable to Maranaos.”

The plight of the evacuees will also be eased with a donation of 850,000 euros —  48 million pesos — from the European Commission.

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Pedro-Luis Rojo, head of the East, Southeast Asia and Pacific Regional Office of the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), said yesterday that the aid would directly benefit more than 50,000 people.

He said: “The unprecedented violence in Marawi has caused tens of thousands of families to flee, leaving everything behind.

“This has triggered a sharp increase in humanitarian needs as many of the displaced people are currently deprived of fundamental means to sustain their day-to-day lives.

“This grant from the EU will support the delivery of immediate life-saving assistance to those most in need, and contribute to increased protection of populations affected by the conflict.”

The humanitarian aid will be spent on food, water supply, health care, hygiene kits, sanitation facilities and essential household items.