Hamidah “Oxy” Guro’s tears fell as she shared with Tzu Chi volunteers the situation of her people in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur.
“Everything is gone,” she says. “Those homes that were not damaged by air strikes were looted. Those that were not looted were burned down.”
Hamidah was lucky she was not caught in the on-going military crisis in their city. A few weeks before the firefight between the government troops and militants began, she left their province for Manila to prepare for the Philippine Bar Licensure Exam.
A native Maranao, Hamidah was born and raised in Marantao, a neighboring municipality of Marawi City. Before the armed conflict, she said Marawi was a peaceful and prosperous city. Christians and Muslims lived together in harmony.
When the war erupted on March 23, however, their peaceful existence was shattered and Hamidah can no longer recognize her beloved hometown. “Every day that I see pictures [of Marawi City] it breaks my heart,” she says.
Over 70 days have passed since the war started but the civilians’ misery continues as airstrikes and firefights rage on. The recent death toll has climbed to 100 while 400,000 individuals were displaced. Half of this number came from the warzone Marawi City. The remaining 200,000 came from neighboring towns.
Marawi City serves as the entryway to the different municipalities in Lanao del Sur. Since its locked down due to the war, supply of food grew scarce. This, along with the possibility of the battle spreading in the adjacent communities, prompted residents from nearby towns to evacuate as well.
While some like Hamidah’s family sought refuge among their relatives in neighboring provinces, for most residents, there’s nowhere to go apart from the evacuation centers.
Currently, 78 evacuation centers in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Iligan City in Cagayan de Oro are serving the evacuees. But the dismal and crowded situation in these centers drove many families to seek shelter in the unlikeliest of places.
In Barangay Santiago, Iligan City fifteen families sought refuge at a car junkshop. Men, women, young and old slept at the back of the vehicles or on the ground. Since it was an unrecognized evacuation centers, these families barely received aid from the government of non-government agencies.
The Rotary Club of Marawi City, of which Hamidah is a member, discovered the plight of these evacuees. After posting photos of their situation on the internet, several aid groups and individuals have sent help for the said families.
On August 3, Tzu Chi Foundation donated 49,800 pieces of clothes and undergarments for the evacuees. The donation was coursed through the Rotary Club of Marawi.
“We are not yet allowed to go to Marawi because it is still unsafe for the volunteers. But we are sending these clothes to somehow help the evacuees. These are unused clothes for men, women, and children,” says Tzu Chi volunteer Judy Lao.
Hamidah, who presented the Rotary Club, expressed gratitude for the help. According to her, Rotary will be coordinating with other groups to distribute the clothes in different evacuation centers. They are also planning to bring these donations to families who did not stay in the evacuation areas and to home-based evacuees, or those who stayed with their relatives in nearby provinces.
“These clothes will be of big help. Those who fled their homes didn’t even bring any clothes with them, even their underwear because no one thought this war will last this long, and it is beyond our imagination that this is happening to us,” Hamidah says.
Tzu Chi volunteer Wang Cheng Fang, one of the volunteers who prepared the clothes to be sent to Marawi, was happy to know their efforts were received with much appreciation.
“They told us what they need the most are undergarments. I have been serving as a volunteer for 12 years and what makes me feel so happy and fulfilled for doing this is knowing that we have been able to give people what they need the most,” she says.
While the clothes can keep the evacuees warm for days, much still needs to be done to help the civilians caught in the Marawi crisis. The armed conflict is almost on its third month but its end remains uncertain. As a consequence, the aid that used to pour for the evacuees are dwindling.
“They need emergency livelihood program so that they can also help themselves and survive while they are still in the evacuation areas. There are days when no relief aid arrives and the evacuees don’t have anything to eat,” says Hamidah.
Tzu Chi Foundation will continue to come up with ways to help the families affected by the war.
Tzu Chi volunteers load the boxes of clothes in a container van. The clothes will be sent to the families affected by the on-going war in Marawi City. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Hamidah “Oxy” Guro and Tzu Chi volunteer Judy Lao check the clothes that will be send to the Marawi evacuees. Tzu Chi donated 49, 800 pieces of unused clothing for men, women, and children evacuees. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
Tzu Chi volunteer Judy Lao comforts an emotional Hamidah “Oxy” Guro. After sharing about the situation of her fellowmen who were displaced by the on-going war Marawi City, Hamidah expresses her gratitude for Tzu Chi’s clothing donations.【Photo by Jamaica Digo】
The truck containing boxes of clothes for Marawi evacuees leave the Tzu Chi Great Love Campus in Sta. Mesa, Manila on August 3. The donation is expected to arrive in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte by August 7. 【Photo by Jamaica Digo】