MANILA- United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Philippines has begun implementing a psychosocial recovery program for thousands of children displaced by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.
The intervention aims to reach over 40,000 displaced children to help them recover from the trauma of war, said Andrew Morris, Unicef Philippines chief of field office.
The agency estimates that over 160,000 children have been displaced since clashes between state forces and Islamic State-linked Maute and Abu Sayyaf terrorists erupted in Marawi City on May 23.
Government has earlier reported that more than 300,000 residents have fled the fighting, now into its fourth week. Most moved to nearby areas, including Iligan City.
“Widespread fear is apparent. The lives of many of those children are in turmoil. They ran away from their homes in Marawi… It’s important that we do everything we can to help them return to a sense of normalcy,” Morris told ANC Saturday.
Morris said majority of the displaced children were staying in homes with host families, while over 10,000 were currently seeking shelter in evacuation centers.
While conditions are improving in evacuation centers, sanitation remains a major concern for the evacuees, Morris said.
“Conditions are getting better but, as you can imagine, it’s been chaotic and not an environment you want your children to be in,” he said.
UNICEF has also provided water purification equipment and items to help breastfeeding mothers to address sanitation issues, Morris said.
Displaced residents of the besieged city of Marawi have been reporting illnesses, including fever and diarrhea, as they were forced to stay in evacuation centers amid the ongoing government offensive.