Holding on to Hope

Last year’s extremist attack on the proud and ancient city of Marawi has left tens of thousands displaced and clinging to the hope they can return home soon

Photo by Julie Christine Batula

Photo by Julie Christine Batula

Almost a year after the historic city of Marawi in Mindanao was attacked by extremists, tens of thousands of displaced Filipinos remain homeless, unlikely to return to their devastated homes anytime soon.

Marawi has been a trading centre for centuries, but its people had never experienced displacement until last year’s brutal attack by extremists. The siege of the city lasted for some five long months (23 May - 17 Oct 2017) galvanizing the world’s attention. At its peak, some 400,000 Filipinos were homeless from the fighting, most staying with family or host communities.

Today, with the eyes of the world turned to other crises, tens of thousands of Marawi’s most vulnerable residents – people who fled their homes at no-notice as extremists marauded through the city – cannot return to rebuild their homes.

A senior IOM delegation visited Marawi city over the past weekend (21-22/04) to listen to the needs of the displaced people at a forum with local government and civil society partners.

The visit coincided with the 20th anniversary of UN’s Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. The point was not lost on the city’s displaced whose representatives stressed the urgency of getting the city’s economy back on its feet and providing its many displaced youth with education and productive livelihoods.

“More than a humanitarian imperative, we have to ensure that the displaced people are helped to rebuild their homes and lives as soon as possible,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations and Emergencies, adding, “We are determined to empower their responses and give voice to their concerns.”

The government has major plans to rebuild Marawi’s infrastructure and public services under the Bangon Marawi Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Programme.  

Manadir Dia, the leader of an internally displaced persons (IDP) community at a displacement site in Buadi-Itowi, Marawi City said he fears for his community. “If their basic needs especially education, healthcare and livelihoods are not met, I am concerned that we will once again face the kind of crisis that came to us last year.”

IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Kristin Dadey said: “I am so impressed by the spirit of the Marawi people, by their determination and optimism that I am sure that some of the major challenges we see today can be overcome. But they need generous support so their hope and optimism are not dashed.”

IOM is partnering with the government to support the displaced communities and help support the local civil society organizations working in the most-affected areas. Specifically, Marawi City’s local government and the Provincial government have asked IOM to provide psychosocial and livelihood support for the affected areas in Lanao del Sur while the comprehensive rehabilitation plan for Marawi and nearby host communities are on the way.

For more information please contact: Kristin Dadey, IOM Chief of Mission Philippines at +63 917 803 5009, Email: KDadey@iom.int