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Misery of flood victims in the south of the Philippines

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has raised concerns about food shortages in areas of the southern Mindanao island of the Philippines, after recent flooding destroyed thousands of hectares of rice and corn.

The WFP has been distributing supplies of rice and vegetable oil to over 350,000 people in Cotabato City and Maguindanao Province and the projected cost of the emergency food supplies needed is 2 million dollars.

Flooding occurs regularly in the region, but the past few weeks have brought particular misery to Mindanao. To the west, a heavy downpour at the end of June triggered flash floods which killed 29 people in Davao City, including 18 children. And the situation in Maguindanao is worse than in previous years, because blockages of silt and water hyacinths in the Rio Grande de Mindanao River have caused more extensive flooding.

Now the WFP is worried how people in the area will cope over the longer term. In some places, 80 per cent of crops due to be harvested in September have been totally destroyed and it will take another six months before new harvests can be gathered. The WFP collected data which suggested that even before this latest disaster, almost two-thirds of households in Maguindanao Province were not consuming enough food.

Following the flooding, nearly 30,000 people have been forced to flee their homes and take refuge in evacuee centres. United Nations (UN) agencies and other aid organisations are working to support the evacuees, but a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expresses concern about conditions in some of the centres. Some are not providing adequate water or sanitation and the report suggests “conditions are of immediate concern”, particularly since there are no medical stations in certain areas to provide health services. In addition, many centres visited by officials in Cotabato City offer women and female-headed families inadequate protection.

As well as destroying crops, the floods have affected 171 schools across the region, with 58 submerged. Nearly 60,000 children are missing out on schooling and tents for temporary learning spaces, as well as teaching and other school supplies have been identified as immediate needs. Some schools have already begun conducting emergency classes in other buildings in safe locations. However, with 70 per cent of the population in these communities dependent on farming and fishing, it is hard to predict the affect on children longer term as families struggle to rebuild their livelihoods.

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