Fears for women and children as fighting displaces 120,000 in Philippines

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Displaced Filipina women shelter in the Pagalungan in Mindanao’s Maguindanao province. Photo: UNHCR/E.Monato

Fighting in the southern Philippines has forced at least 120,000 people from their homes and the conflict is spreading, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) warned Friday.

Eight weeks of clashes between government and separatists have pushed the displaced to seek shelter in schools and public buildings.

A further unknown number have already fled to safety with family and friends, UNHCR said.

Daniel Johnson has more:

Some 13 municipalities in Maguindanao have been caught up by clashes between Philippines state forces and Islamist rebels including the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, UNHCR says.

Access isn’t possible to many areas but the UN agency says it is managing to monitor the conditions of displaced people inside and outside shelters with the help of the local authorities.

Here’s UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch:

“UNHCR is particularly concerned about the safety of civilians including women and children who are caught up in the conflict areas. It is unclear how long or widely the ongoing law and order situation will extend.”

The agency has provided basic provisions including blankets and mosquito nets but says more aid is needed urgently given the limited supplies of food, medicine, water and shelters.

The latest fighting erupted in January and comes despite a peace deal signed last year to end decades of clashes.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

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