‘Longing’: Images of Marawi evacuees

Ramin Hashempour

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‘Longing’: Images of Marawi evacuees
An International Committee of the Red Cross delegate visits the Saguiaran evacuation center and the Sagonsongan transitional site, and captures in photographs the longing for family and home of those displaced by the conflict

All photos by Ramin Hashempour, ICRC

LANAO DEL SUR, Philippines – In May 2017, Marawi City in Lanao del Sur province, southern Philippines, experienced its deadliest armed conflict.

The crisis had severe humanitarian consequences for the residents of Marawi City and nearby towns. The conflict caused more than 300,000 people to flee their homes, and around 1,000 people – fighters and civilians – lost their lives. Many people were separated from loved ones, some of whom remain missing to date.

It’s been a year since the crisis began, but around 230,000 people remain displaced and are in need of humanitarian aid. Behind each number lies a story of prolonged suffering. This photo collection brings to you the people behind those numbers and how lives have been affected by the events that unfolded over the year.

The daily life of internally displaced people (IDPs), locally called “bakwit” (evacuee), is dominated by longing – longing to return home, longing for news of missing loved ones, or longing to be reunited with a relative who has moved elsewhere or is behind bars. For many, coping with their difficult living conditions is easier than dealing with uncertainty about their future, or the agony of waiting for news about a loved one that may never come.

Since the start of the conflict, the authorities, along with humanitarian organizations, have been assisting people by providing them with food and household items, clean water, and health care, as well as facilitating family reunifications. My arrival in the Philippines coincided with the start of this crisis, and I spent much of my first few months working in Marawi.

The following images come from the visits to the IDP camps in Saguiaran evacuation center, as well as of some residents who returned to Marawi and those who now live in the Sagonsongan transitional site, months after the conflict ended in 2017. During these visits, I spent time talking to people, listening to their stories, and using these images to capture moments from their daily lives.

The vulnerability of these families who face prolonged displacement is painful. I hope the following photographs provide some insights into their daily struggles as well as the moments of brightness that these affected families experience. (READ: Residents to gov’t planners: Build better Marawi for us)

Many families are forced to move to neighboring communities, including the municipality of Saguiaran, also in Surigao del Sur, in search of a temporary shelter.

The arrival of families with children to the camps in Saguiaran is marred with frustration and fear after days with no proper sleep during escape and rescue. Adapting to this new environment has not been easy for many displaced children.

Displaced from ground zero a very upset-looking woman waits for her family members to join her at the Saguiaran evacuation center.

Visibly shaken, these children, who have just arrived with their families at Saguiaran evacuation camp, are welcomed by a thunderstorm.

Lack of proper shelter in the early days of displacement has caused difficulties for the displaced families at the Saguiaran evacuation center.

Lack of proper shelter in Saguiaran in the early days in evacuation camps means additional burden for the displaced families during downpours.

The daily life of a displaced father and daughter marred with longing and uncertainty at the Saguiaran evacuation center, Lanao del Sur. Majority of the displaced people lost their sources of livelihood after many months of living in displacement. This photo is taken April 2018.

Nadser has been living with his family at the Saguiaran evacuation center for almost a year. During my last visit there, he told me that his wife had recently left him and his young daughter.

Newly-designated transitional settlement site for displaced people of Marawi in Barangay Sagonsongan. Although people in this transitional site now live in individual shelters, they still yearn to return to their beloved homes.


Ramin Hashempour is a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Philippines. He has been part of the ICRC team working on the ground since the beginning of armed clashes in Marawi City.

The ICRC, a neutral, impartial, and independent humanitarian organization, has been assisting people affected by the fighting in Marawi. To date, it has brought life-saving aid to more than 100,000 displaced people. In support of the families looking for their missing loved ones, the ICRC also provides Restoring Family Links service.

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