Young people strive for restoration of Marawi damaged by fighting with so called Islamic State

Young people strive for restoration of Marawi damaged by fighting with so called Islamic State

Nor-Ali was born on May 24, 2017. This was the day when his family was fleeing from their home which they had to leave suddenly because of an armed conflict in the Philippines city of Marawi. They decided to leave to Maul, where their relatives live, however the soldiers did not permit them to enter the city. “Already before our journey to Maul I suffered from pain when walking and I had to stop and rest every moment. When we decided to flee I knew I would give birth soon. My husband could not help me because he had to take care of our eldest son Norjamen,” describes the mother of Nor-Ali.

She had given birth to the baby during the journey, but it was not the only trial awaiting the family. They finally arrived in Maulu but they could stay in the house of the relatives only for four days. Then they had to set on another journey because the city of Maul was facing a siege. In the end they found a refuge in an evacuation centre of Piagapu. Unfortunately, the story of this family is not at all unique – the Battle of Marawi has forced 359,680 people out of their homes.

The rebels, who have professed the self-appointed Islamic State, have captured the city by the end of May 2017. The conflict flared up fully in the moment when the Philippines army launched an operation to capture one of the leading Islamists who managed to mobilise an allied terrorist group. The biggest city battle of the Philippines modern history lasted 6 months and the resulting damages are estimated at 20 billion Philippines pesos (over 322 million EUR). Most of the families will not be able to return to their homes because the majority of the city had been destroyed completely.

People In Need (PIN) sent a humanitarian team in September 2017 to respond to acute needs of the affected residents. The PIN team has helped thanks to the financial support of People In Need Club of Friends and active help of local non-profit organisations. The help was provided to the most vulnerable inhabitants affected by the conflict – young people who represent almost 50 % of the city of Marawi residents.

Missing documents stopped children enrolling in schools

“Many people have been tackling problems with missing personal identity documents which prevent them accessing governmental aid, children cannot continue attending school and people have difficulties dealing with local offices and searching for new accommodation or employment. The existing data have revealed that people without personal identity documents are more likely to become human trafficking victims and especially young people can be easily recruited by local armed groups,” says Monika Kolomazníková, PIN humanitarian aid coordinator in the Philippines. “People In Need cooperates with local team of solicitors who provide law support to people who have lost their documents and help them with their renewal,” she adds.

Ati is now in fifth grade and faces documents loss problems. He lives with his parents in the evacuation centre. Luckily he is able to attend a host school together with other children from the evacuation centre. Unfortunately he cannot be enrolled officially because he lacks the so called reference number, which can cause him a lot of complications in the future. “My school teacher reminds me constantly that I need the reference number. He even visited a neighbouring city school where he tried to seek out a teacher from my previous school. But he did not succeed. I still hope I will get my reference number one day and will be able to enrol my school officially,” says Ati. In addition to legal support, PIN supplies students with school uniforms that help them with safe access to schools, because the army can clearly recognise them. Psychosocial counselling is an inevitable part of the students' support, it is absolutely crucial after a traumatizing war experience.

Many young people affected by the conflict try to join restoration of the war-destroyed city and thus enable return of internally relocated residents. However, they often face a lack of support for their activities and effort to participate in the reconstruction of the war-affected area. People In Need has therefore established a coordination group for youth organisations, where young people can meet and discuss together their plans for neighbourhood help. These youth organisations have already proposed a number of projects during their first two meetings and they will attempt to carry them out in 2018 and contribute to the renovation of the crisis-struck area.

Author: Monika Kolomazníková