ICRC worries over fate of civilians in war areas
MAGUINDANAO – The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed apprehension over the fate of civilians caught in the fighting between security and rebel forces in southern Philippines.
It said clashes between government forces and jihadists in Maguindanao - one of five provinces under the restive Muslim autonomous region – continued since last month, causing civilian displacement and casualties.
“We are worried about the fate of civilians caught in the fighting. We call on all parties to the conflict to strictly abide by international humanitarian law. In particular, we remind them that they should take all measures to avoid indiscriminate attacks that may harm civilians.”
“We are deeply alarmed by incidents involving road- side explosive devices that have resulted in injuries and deaths,” said Dominic Earnshaw, head of the ICRC office in Cotabato.
He said to help treat all the wounded – without any distinction – the ICRC donated emergency kits and medicines to health facilities in Maguindanao, Cotabato City and Sultan Kudarat.
Earnshaw said a field assessment conducted re- cently by an ICRC team showed that the displaced population in Maguindanao and North Cotabato have already benefitted from initial assistance provided by the local authorities.
“The ICRC will continue to monitor the situation of the affected population in order to identify any gaps in humanitarian assistance, in coordination with the authorities and the Philippine Red Cross,” Earnshaw said.
Armed clashes also erupted in Lanao del Sur’s Butig town and villagers had to leave their homes to avoid being caught in the fighting. The ICRC, Earnshaw said, is closely following the situation, including the humanitarian consequences of these incidents.
Army soldiers take a rest during a military offensive against jihadists in Lanao del Sur province in the restive Muslim autonomous region. Fierce clashes are also reported in Maguindanao and near provinces.