Young, eldertly ‘bakwits’ suffer the most

Romy B. Elusfa/MindaNews contributor   
Thursday, 04 September 2008 17:01

DATU PIANG, Maguindanao (MindaNews/3 Sep) — For a few minutes, Ibrahim Samsudin, 7, was just sitting on the pavement of a covered court, looking at a plate of rice his mother gave him. Holding her one-year-old baby, Ibrahim’s 25-year-old mother Badria took the plate and poured in a teaspoon of brown sugar.

 Without saying a word, Ibrahim grabbed the plate, took a tin cup, poured water on the plate and started eating. In less than two minutes, the plate was empty and Ibrahim’s three younger brothers had nothing left to eat.

 A meter away from the Samsudin family, three girls aged 8, 9 and 10 were sharing rice with noodles in one plate. One of the three would only snatch a handful whenever the two others were not looking.


On Sept. 2, the local Social Welfare Office reported that four evacuees had died in this municipality — one-month-old baby Montasher Sadol who was recorded to have suffered stomach pain; Bayanon Kato, 55; Ludikay Alim, 60; and Zeny Alimodin, 100.


They are only a few of the many children and elderly who comprise the 132,425 evacuees in the province of Maguindanao, who in turn constitute 29.43 percent of the 450,000 evacuees the World Food Program has documented for the 11 provinces of Mindanao affected by the war.


Thirteen of the 22 towns of Maguindanao were said to be affected by the displacement, though three of the towns merely served as host for to the evacuees.


“Most of the evacuees here are house-based. They stay with their relatives. Those who have no relatives are in evacuation centers,” said Elsie Amil, provincial director of the welfare office in Maguindanao.


“Only around 45 percent of the evacuees are in evacuation centers while the 55 percent are living with their relatives,” Amil said.


Norodin Muhamad, a resident of Barangay Damatulan in Midsayap, Cotabato, who was still afraid to go back to his home, said in the local dialect: “Our number one need here is rice. While we also need plastic water container, rice is more important.” An evacuee at the covered court near the town plaza here, Muhamad was referring to the plastic container distributed here not by any local government unit of Maguindanao but by the government officials of North Cotabato.


The evacuees here who claimed they have been in this town since Aug. 7, admitted that relief goods have been given to them by government and private organizations. They said, though, that “the rations are not enough to support our needs.” They are thus appealing to government and private organizations to send them rice, mats and mosquito nets.


Asked what would make them go back home, the evacuees chorused: “Kalilintad!” (Peace!)


“Both the Army and the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) should resolve whatever differences they have so that we civilians will no longer be suffering here,” said Nashrudin Mokamad.


“We are afraid to go home for as long as the soldiers are in our place. We vacated our homes when they came because we anticipated armed encounters between them and the MILF,” he added.


Kabagatan Samal, 53, offered a different answer. “Independence will make our place peaceful,” he said but declined to elaborate.


But while the guns were silent in Southwestern Mindanao today, the evacuees’ demand for a ceasefire seems far from being answered, especially with the coming in of the 46th Infantry Battalion fresh from Leyte. The soldiers arrived in Talayan around 2 p.m.


Last night, the government also dissolved its peace negotiating panel, sending mixed signals to the evacuees who believe that the government might have already abandoned the talks. (Romy Elusfa / MindaNews contributor)

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