Following the continuing skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Kitcharao, Agusan del Norte, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) vows to continue to monitor the situation of the 93 families displaced by the armed conflict. The families have now returned to their homes,  but their security is still under threat.

On March 11, farming and other livelihood activities as well as classes were suspended when an armed conflict between the Philippine Army’s 29th Infantry Battalion and suspected NPA rebels erupted in Barangay Hinimbangan. A total of 347 civilians were initially displaced by the incident.

Based on reports from the DSWD Field Office-CARAGA, the affected families already received food and non-food items worth P251,007 from the DSWD composed of the following: 186 Family Food Packs (FFPs), 186 malong, 93 mosquito nets, 93 plastic mats, and 93 dignity kits.

The local government also provided assistance worth P36,771.27 to the displaced families. Trained Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office (MSWDO) staff members are now providing psychosocial support and holding stress debriefing activities for the affected individuals to help them  process their traumatic experience.

DSWD Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo stressed that protection of civilians must always be prioritized not only during disasters but also during armed conflicts and other civil disturbances.

“It is our mandate to protect the people and their rights. The government and all its agencies must ensure that no civilians must be caught between the crossfire and ensure that appropriate assistance and protection will be provided to them until they can return to their normal lives,” Sec. Taguiwalo said.

She also said that armed confrontations continue to threaten the lives of children and communities and that the peaceful negotiation between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) must continue to push through to minimize the loss of lives.

“We need everyone’s cooperation to assist those affected by armed conflicts around the country and we also hope that the public will support the government in creating a substantive agenda for just and lasting peace based on social justice which ultimately aims to solve the issues of inequality and poverty in our country,” the Secretary ended. ###