Some Zambo residents could spend Christmas in evac centers
MANILA - After the fighting came the floods.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said it now has to double its efforts in assisting the displaced residents of Zamboanga City after floods hit their homes as well as evacuation centers following the armed conflict involving the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction of Nur Misuari.
In an interview with ANC's "Headstart" on Wednesday, DSWD Undersecretary Parisya Taradji said the challenge to the agency has now become bigger after floods hit the city's sports complex, the largest evacuation site in the area.
It has been serving as the temporary shelter for over 17,000 individuals since the standoff between government troops and MNLF rebels began last September 9.
About 60 to 70 percent of the evacuees have already been moved to other sites, most of which are schools, after floods in the sports complex reached knee-high.
Taradji said their biggest difficulty is finding a suitable relocation site for the evacuees, which include some 10,000 families who lost their homes to fires caused by the rebel group.
"The challenge that we are now faced with is the site where we can put up either the temporary shelter or permanent shelter," she said, adding that Barangay Taluksangay has so far been the only approved relocation site for the evacuees.
Families may spend Christmas in evac centers
Taradji also admitted that many of the displaced families may be left with no choice but to spend Christmas in evacuation centers.
"Even if we really want to fast track the work, I think it will take some time and even up to next year... We are in the middle of October already. Halos magpa-Pasko sila diyan unless we can finish many of the bunkhouses where we can move them out," she said.
"Delay is really in the site," she added.
Taradji also explained that aside from finding a suitable relocation site for the affected residents, the DSWD and the local city government would also still have to make an assessment "as to who should be given the permanent houses and temporary shelters (bunkhouses)."
The DSWD said a unit of bunkhouse will consist of 10 rooms which can be occupied by 10 families. Each bunkhouse will be provided with a kitchen and toilet, which will be shared by the families.
Taradji said the national government has allocated P2.2 billion for the construction of permanent shelters in Zamboanga while P800,000 has been earmarked for the construction of temporary bunkhouses.
Human feces in floods
Meanwhile, some of the displaced residents have already been complaining about the foul smell coming from the portable toilets in the evacuation centers.
Cassidy Camlian, who sought shelter at the sports complex after firefights erupted, said he and his family decided to move to the Zamboanga National High School West after floods hit the evacuation center.
In an interview also with ANC, Camlian said he and his family could no longer take the smell of human feces which has been aggravated by the floods.
"Nagpanic kami. Actually hanggang tuhod lang yung baha sa grandstand. Pero ang hindi namin makayanang amuyin ay yung sangsang ng amoy ng tae pati na yung mga ihi," he said.
He said he is also scared that his family, especially his children, may catch leptospirosis from wading in the floods.
Taradji, for her part, admitted that providing enough comfort rooms for the evacuees has been a huge problem since Day 1.
"I can just imagine. That really is part of the reality that we have to face given the situation," she said.
"The city government is doing its part naman to prevent this...that will affect the health of evacuees. But the requirement is so big...this problem of managing the flood plus compounded by yung dirty waste," she added.
More manpower needed
Taradji also said that although other volunteers, humanitarian team members and non-government organizations (NGOs) have been assisting the DSWD and the city government in their relief and rehabilitation efforts, "we are still trying to cope with the required manpower."
Nonetheless, she assured that the DSWD has been closely working with the city government for the fast recovery of the affected families.
Aside from offering cash-for-work incentives, Taradji said the DSWD will also begin a livelihood micro-enterprise program to help evacuees once they have settled into their new homes.