By Kurt Anthony Chan
“We have to do something. What we’re doing is something historical. We are there not because we are able to cater donations. We are for peace in Mindanao, we are for the underprivileged. We are for the poor.” – Nestor Banuag Jr.,
Over 4 months ago, Marawi City has fallen into a crisis from the hands of the Maute and Abu Sayyaf jihadists groups. Fighting in claiming back the war-torn city from the ISIS-linked terrorist groups, the government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines continue dropping bombs in what may be the final stages in the military campaign.
While the military continue to fight these terror groups, local government officials, development workers and volunteers provide relief operations for the affected residents of Marawi and Lanao del Sur. With over four months from the attack, an increasing amount of internally displaced persons are crowding the evacuation centers affecting the sanitary and food security for the victims.
Xavier University – Social Development Office, spearheaded by Mr. Nestor Banuag Jr., initiated the XU #TabangMarawi Relief Operations in an effort to provide assistance for the victims of the Marawi Siege. With the donations from the Office of the Vice President, LGUs, NGOs and the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, together with the volunteers, the donation campaign has delivered to the evacuees of Marawi City food and non-food items, which includes Halal food, sanitary items, school supplies, clothing and medicines.
Xavier University, as part of the Jesuit community, appealed to create a system to gather donations after clashes erupted between the military and the Maute Group in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. The Social Development Office also tapped other units within the university including the College of Engineering through Engineering Resource Center, and the School of Medicine, through their Sustainable Sanitation to address concerns on sanitation and waste management. The Social Development office created their own structure to make the operation more systematic and programmed for communal interventions, while engaging with the community.
Updates on the Relief Operations
Xavier University became the hub for the collections of donations and repacking of relief goods to be delivered to the evacuees of Marawi. People from private and public sectors have donated in cash and in kind for the victims of the siege. Mats, slippers, Monoblock chairs, hygiene kits, as well as food packs from generous donors were delivered through the logistics of XU Tabang Marawi. Xavier University, as a member of the Society of Jesus and the Jesuit community, organized special collections during masses for the benefit of the evacuees. As of September 11, 2017, the total amount of donations collected rose to Php5,166,473.00 and more donations are expected to come.
From #TabangMarawi fund drive boxes: Php8,805.40
From XU Church special collections: Php41,981.80
From XU Red Mass special collection: Php13,266.45
TOTAL AMOUNT OF DONATIONS (as of 11:41PM, 11 September 2017): Php5,166,473.00
On the recent visit in Marawi, the Social Development Office is now focused on providing service for the community. Aside from the donations, the affected residents are also in need for a psychosocial development, especially for the children. “They are willing to train volunteers to help the victims overcome their experience from the crisis, especially for the children. Open a conversation with them.”, says Banuag. Together with the formators of Xavier University, psychosocial interventions are being strengthened, especially with the children. Meanwhile, the formators are also reaching to adults with their intervention, through Agriculture by vegetable gardening and Agro-enterprise. “This is Xavier University’s expertise on training, empowering the people with the support from the barangay for providing areas suitable for vegetable gardening and agro-enterprise.” says Banuag Jr.
Ten cluster leaders were invited and catered on SEARSOLIN for a three-day training on proper farming, together with Ms. Judith Pit and the College of Agriculture. Cash donations were also used to buy seeds and organic fertilizers.
Donations, which includes food and non-food items, that are dropped will be repacked and to be delivered. Cash donations received are used to buy medicines and goods that are most required by the evacuees. Cash donations were also used in the construction of 13 pre-fabricated community kitchens and 5 toilets for the affected residents.
“We’d like to prioritize the more vulnerable such as infants, children and the elderly. Milk, diapers, and sanitary items are most welcome.” – Banuag Jr.
As of the moment, XU Tabang Marawi is strengthening the repacking of the goods, ensuring that it is needs-based. “We have shifted from giving out canned goods because it has already been over four months. We are maximizing our donations for the people to eat freshly cooked food such as vegetables and good quality rice.” Says Banuag Jr. People from evacuation centers now cook their own food through the donated community kitchens. The schedule for repacking is every Wednesday and Saturday of the week, and delivery of the goods will be every Sunday. Volunteers who wish to help in repacking the goods and distribution may coordinate with the Social Development Office.
Recipients of the Relief Goods
In a report from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director Ricardo Jalad, an estimate of 66,738 families or 324,406 individuals have been internally displaced as of June 15, 2017. On June 9, XU Tabang Marawi conducted their first visit to Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur, which hosts the biggest evacuation center for the internally displaced people of Marawi. The volunteers assessed on what goods are needed for the evacuees. The Social Development Office decided to focus the development on Barangay Bito Puadi Itowa, one of the first barangays inside Marawi City and one of the isolated and least communities that are reached. “At the time, there were around 70 families housed inside an unfinished municipal hospital within the barangay. We visited, assessed, and provided relief goods and while doing so, we coordinated with the PDRRMO and connected with the AFP which allowed us to conduct weekly visits”, says Banuag Jr. With the commitment of the barangay, XU Tabang Marawi made the relief operations for the area possible.
One of the indicators of development is the increase of families that are benefitted with the donations. From 70 families, it has now increased to more than 300 families and other barangays getting delivered with the repacked goods. Only 20% of the evacuees remain in the evacuation centers, as others have already slowly returned to their homes.
Allocation of Relief Goods
XU Tabang Marawi averages 1,200 packs a week, which are delivered to Barangay Bito Buadi Itowa and its neighboring barangays Mipaga, Bito Puadi Parba, Emie Punod and one of the Madrasa in Pantar, Lanao del Norte every weekend. With the coordination of the barangay officials, the people follow a system, ensuring that the recipients are legitimate members of the community. The delivery is scheduled every Sunday of the week, with simultaneous delivery to avoid the redundancy in distribution. Cash donations are also being used to buy medicines and funding medical missions that are provided by XU Tabang Marawi. As of September, more than 15,000 food packs have already been delivered and distributed to almost 6,000 families.
XU Tabang Marawi ensures that all interventions and programs for the IDPs are culturally sensitive. XU Tabang Marawi is looking forward to coordinating with key committees to make sure that operations could still continue for the community. They intend to serve those who are in greater need, those who are in the peripheries. Among other evacuation centers, the barangays stated are lucky to have given a holistic relief to their community. With the regular visits and assessments, Barangay Bito Puadi Itowa and its neighboring barangays have a greater chance for hope.