COTABATO CITY More than 300 families displaced by the fighting between government troops and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City have received relief assistance from the Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on Thursday in the villages of Talon-Talon and Guisao, officials said.
ARMM HEART is composed of the different line agencies and leading civil society organizations in the region.
Bai Rahima Alba Datumanong, assistant secretary for operations of DSWD-ARMM, said the relief operation was part of the assistance being extended by the ARMM government to the people of Zamboanga in the face of the ongoing crisis.
The team distributed food packs and non-food items that included hygiene kits, blankets, mats, mosquito nets, buckets and reinforced plastic sheets to 250 families in Barangay Talon-Talon and 104 families in Barangay Guisao.
A makeshift clinic and pharmacy were also set up to provide free immunization, medical checkup and consultation to affected individuals.
Dr. Alinader Minalang, chief of the Lanao del Sur health office, brought in a team composed of 10 doctors and 10 nurses to augment the number of medical staff that were sent earlier by Dr. Kadil Sinolinding Jr, ARMM health regional secretary.
Minalang said most of the evacuees complained of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea. He said it can be partly attributed to the inadequacy of food, poor sanitation and stress at evacuation camps.
ARMM HEART targets to conduct more relief operations at other evacuation camps in the city on Friday.
Meanwhile in Sulu, the provincial government has initiated a fund drive aimed at helping the displaced families in Zamboanga, many of whom are from Sulu.
Initially, the campaign has collected P234,700 cash donations from local donors in just two days that the provincial government will purchase food packs and medicines for the affected families.
Sulu Governor Abdusakur Tan said it was heart warming to note that the biggest contributor was the Vicariate of Jolo, led by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
Tan told reporters that about 80 percent of the affected families in Zamboanga after the atrocities committed by the Moro National Liberation Front under Nur Misuari are ethnic Tausog and Samah Muslims.
The office of Governor Tan, in a statement, said the fund drive is expected to gain headway in the coming days owing to the support of various sectors.
The provincial government has also set aside funds from its calamity fund which earlier used to buy rice, noodles and canned goods for the affected families.
Tan also noted that among those who were first to respond to the fund drive were members of the Philippine Marines based ion Sulu and the faculty and students of Sulu State University.
Lawyer Laisa Alamia, ARMM executive secretary who is helping oversee HEARTs relief works in Zamboanga City, said Minalangs group had established a makeshift clinic and pharmacy in Barangay Talon-Talon.
"Zamboanga City is not part of ARMM, but many students from Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi study there," Alamia said, adding that Zamboanga is also connected, economy-wise, to the business communities in the ARMM provinces. (PNA)