Friday, March 21, 2014

Mayor says MNLF should be held accountable for deaths of IDPs

From the Zamboanga Today (Mar 20): Mayor says MNLF should be held accountable for deaths of IDPs

Worried by the rising death toll at the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex (JFEMSC) and Cawa-Cawa Boulevard, Mayor Ma. Isabelle "Beng" Climaco-Salazar said the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebels should be held accountable for the deaths of the evacuees.

Mayor Climaco said the 101 deaths (of evacuees) should be included in the list of casualties as a consequence of the MNLF attack in Zamboanga City, September last year.

"We have to put accountability where accountability should be," she said in a press conference at City Hall last Monday.

"Why are we in this particular situation? We are here because the MNLF attacked the city of Zamboanga who wanted to plant their flag in the city," she added.

Expressing hopes that United Nations humanitarian agencies will extend their assistance program for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Zamboanga City, the mayor said the city is not yet capable of being fully independent at this time.

Mayor Salazar stressed that "at this very moment, because we are still in our early recovery stage, the city of Zamboanga, particularly the 26,000 Internally Displaced People (IDP) cannot go yet without external support."

"But nonetheless, our team in the city government is also preparing for the plan wherein the local government unit will be absorbing all of our displaced people," she said, referring to the Zamboanga Action Plan 2014.

She appealed to the generous patron to provide fresh drinking water for children, Cerelac, and energy drinks, as well as allergy medication for the children.

"What we are concerned about is the acute nutrition that is the cause of the death and the chronic nutrition that our local government is responding," the mayor said.

Earlier, Dr. Rodel Agbulos, head of the City Health Office (CHO), disclosed that the deaths of people at grandstand and Cawa-Cawa boulevard shoreline evacuation centers have reached to 101, in which 41.5% were females and 58% were males while 48% were reported in children under 5 years old.

Agbulos said diarrhea was the leading cause of mortality for children under five years (37.5%) and pneumonia (14%) was the leading cause of morbidity among the 5-59 age group.

He added 57% of deaths occurred outside health facilities (i.e. in the evacuation centers - JFEMSC and Cawa-Cawa shoreline) and that 76 dengue cases were reported from January 1 to March 10, 2014.

The CHO said the top causes of death include age, pneumonia, cardiac arrest/heart attack, asthma, neonatal deaths (home delivered), and complicated diseases (DM, stroke).

The sports complex and R.T. Lim Boulevard have been the temporary shelters of thousands of evacuees since the crisis broke out last September 9, 2013 following the attack of MNLF renegades loyal to Nur Misuari on at least six villages in the city.

Evacuees mostly belonging to Badjao, Sama, Tausug, and Yakan tribes have been severely affected by the September siege, with virtually all of their homes, including stilt houses and properties were burned and destroyed.

On Tuesday, Climaco met with the UN humanitarian agencies headed by UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Luiza Carvalho to evaluate and revise the humanitarian Zamboanga Action Plan for its possible extension beyond the end of March 2014.

Since the start of the assistance program, the UN through its donor countries and different humanitarian agencies such as Australia, the Spanish government, Japan, and others - has provided more than P100 million aid for IDPs in Zamboanga City.

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