Jemma fled her home in Marawi City in the early hours of May 26th, 6 young children in tow, walking over six hours by foot to reach the closest safe zone. With weary but firm arms, Jemma cradled her 3 weeks old daughter as they arrived in Saguiaran municipal gym along with several other displaced families. As Marawi City has always been a peaceful place, with children attending schools and parents busy with their livelihood activities. Jemma and her family were not prepared for this conflict. “At first, we thought the conflict will last for only 3 days, we’re not prepared for this long term displacement” Jemma recounts. All she was able to grab before leaving were a few clothes for her youngest children, 3 of which are under the age of 3 years old.
The family has received assistance from the government in the form of non-food items and food packs. However, to meet their specific hygiene and health needs, the WASH and Dignity Kit provided by ACTED and Action Against Hunger, with support from START Network, have been vital. The cramped living quarters in the evacuation centre and limited sanitation facilities means it is vital to keep the area and themselves clean to avoid an outbreak of disease. Luckily, health care workers and volunteers are present in the evacuation centre as well to provide assistance.
The family still faces several challenges as Jemma explains “I badly need money to buy milk for my daughters. My 3 years old daughter sometimes cries because I force her to stop from drinking milk as we can’t afford to buy milk anymore for two of my youngest daughters. I prioritize only my 2 year old daughter for the milk and I breastfeed my one month old baby”. Thousands of other families are facing similar hardships as the number of people affected by the humanitarian crisis gripping Marawi has toppled 400,000 people. Based on data from United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), approximately 84,500 people displaced are women of reproductive age, with over 7,000 women who have given birth in the last six months and 11,500 women estimated to be pregnant.
With no source of income or money, Jemma’s husband has gone to his hometown in search for an income activity. However, with no way of contacting her husband while he is away, he has a second family to support, therefore Jemma is trying to source her own income. Currently, she is coping by asking money from her aunt, who has also been displaced, however her aunt’s reserves are almost exhausted.
Although the family is eager to return home and resume their lives, it will be a challenge for Jemma: “My husband has other family and I cannot rely on him anymore, but I want my children to continue school. I hope the government and other NGO will continue to support us upon return.” Furthermore, violent fighting and aerial bombing continue of Marawi City, with no end to the conflict or return home of displaced people ensured in the near future.