The Grandstand Evacuation Centre 19 months ago, Zamboanga City © IOM 2015
During the last weeks, IOM together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) assisted the transfer of families from the Grandstand evacuation centre to more dignified and safer shelters in transition sites. The support for transfer includes social preparations, go-and-see visits and community consultations with the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). These activities ensure that IDPs are well informed about the transfer processes and they are invited to see the site and assess for themselves how their living conditions will change.
Since September 2013, more than 100,000 people have been displaced due to the armed clashes between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Zamboanga City. Nearly 130,000 people have been affected by the Zamboanga Crisis and 80,688 people (18,110 families) from 14 barangays were forced to flee and to seek refuge in 59 evacuation centres and displacement sites during the height of the conflict in September and October 2013. Most of them sought refuge in the Grandstand Sports Complex and thus it became the largest and most congested evacuation site, holding almost 12,000 families or more than 70,000 individuals at the peak of displacement, according to the DSWD Disaster Response Operations Monitoring and Information Center (DROMIC) data. Currently, there are around 600 families or 4,000 individuals still remaining inside the Grandstand evacuation centre.
Responding to the Zamboanga Crisis, IOM was one of the first international humanitarian organizations that offered support to the Philippine Government in assisting the IDPs. Its initial intervention was to set up tents in the Grandstand and other displacement sites around the city, which were provided by Shelter Box together with the Rotary Club. Weeks later, other humanitarian organizations arrived to provide relief assistance to the affected communities.
Even though one year and eight months have passed, this humanitarian crisis remains underfunded and more assistance is urgently needed. IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Marco Boasso commented on the importance to work in partnership with DSWD in order to provide better living conditions to vulnerable communities such as the IDPs who live in conflict affected areas. IOM jointly with its partners continues to explore durable solutions for the communities affected by continues conflicts, especially in terms of housing, camp coordination, protection and health.