MARAWI, Philippines – As the echoes of gunfire and explosions fade into the past, the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur continue to struggle with the aftermath of the five months of fighting during the 2017 Marawi Siege.
The European Union (EU) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have stepped in to provide P245 million more to aid the hundreds of thousands of Maranaos still suffering from the devastating conflict.
The EU and UNICEF launched a program in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) on Wednesday, January 18, to improve community resilience, increase coverage of essential services and promote child-friendly family and community behaviors in Marawi City and Lanao del Sur. The program would also benefit residents in the neighboring provinces of Lanao del Norte and Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao.
The program aims to address the dire situation faced by many in Marawi and Lanao del Sur where a whole generation of children have seen their capacity to thrive as adults hampered as a result of internal displacement, limited development opportunities, and the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the Bangsamoro region’s sustainable development and long-lasting peace.
Officials said more than 80% of Maranao children live in poverty today, and their rights to health, education, and protection are left wanting.
The five-month Marawi Siege during the Duterte administration had a devastating impact on the lives of the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur, many of whom were unable to return to their homes and rebuild.
Officials said the siege resulted in a high number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), many of whom continue to struggle with poverty and limited access to basic services to this day.
BARMM, Marawi, and Lanao del Sur officials said the collaboration between the EU and UNICEF would be an important step in ensuring that the basic rights of Maranaos are upheld, and that they have access to the resources and support they need to rebuild their lives and communities.
The program, called “Building Community Resilience and Delivery of Essential Services for Post-Conflict Recovery in Lanao del Sur/Marawi City,” has been given a budget of 4 million Euros and would fund health, education, child protection, and disaster risk reduction programs that would benefit 680,000 children, 200,000 parents, and 120,000 IDPs.
Special focus would be given to children with disabilities, indigenous children, out-of-school youth, adolescents at risk of being recruited into armed groups, internally displaced persons, and girls.
The program is aimed at improving maternal, neonatal, child, and adolescent health, nutrition, water, and sanitation services, early childhood education and basic education services, child protection/social welfare system, and child-friendly provincial and municipal planning and investment for children’s rights and reducing disaster risks.
Marawi Mayor Majul Gandamra welcomed the aid from the EU and UNICEF, and their collaboration with the BARMM, Lanao del Sur, and Marawi officials, saying it would help many Maranaos still suffering from the effects of the Marawi Siege.
The 2017 conflict, according to Gandamra, had a severe impact on the region’s economy and development, stunting the growth of Marawi and Lanao del Sur.
The Marawi Siege had a severe impact on the children in the region. Many were forced to flee their homes and were separated from their families, leaving them vulnerable to abuse, exploitation, and recruitment by armed groups.
Many also missed out on education and other basic services, resulting in a generation of children facing limited opportunities for the future.
“Our journey to development and peace lives on in every Bangsamoro youth who carries our dreams into the future. The unrelenting support of our partners enables us to shape a Bangsamoro that nurtures the health and well-being of every child,” said BARMM interim Chief Minister Ahod “Murad” Ebrahim.
UNICEF Philippines representative Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov said sustainable development, peace, and security would not be achieved until every child has their rights fulfilled, respected, and protected.
“Children have a right to just be children and play, learn and spend time with family and friends. Safeguarding the next generation from the effects of armed conflict is our collective responsibility,” Dendevnorov said.
EU Ambassador Luc Veron said the project supports the BARMM’s regional and local authorities’ capacity to plan and deliver essential services, from health and sanitation to education and social protection, and contribute to the fulfillment of basic human rights, with a special focus on children.
Veron said, “The EU is proud to have the opportunity to help fund this effort and partner with the Bangsamoro authorities and UNICEF as part of our long-standing commitment to the well-being of children and peace and development in the BARMM.”
Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr. said the program would not only benefit the current generation but also future generations as Maranaos strive for a healthier, more secure, socially protected, and child-friendly city and province.
Adiong said the collaboration and the help from the EU and UNICEF is a significant step towards providing much-needed aid and support to the people of Marawi and Lanao del Sur. – Rappler.com