Philippines Rebel Standoff a Humanitarian Crisis

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ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- The stand off in Zamboanga, Philippines, has become a humanitarian crisis. The government said rebuilding the city when the situation ends will take lots of time and money.

Even as fighting continues, people in Zamboanga are already trying to get back some normalcy.

But the situation in Zamboanga city remains volatile. Gunfire and sounds from mortar serve as a sure sign that fighting continues.

Yet even with the overwhelming smell of gunpowder lingering in the air and the clear signs that rebels are still scattered in the city, locals continue to do their business in the markets.

This shows how desperate the people are to go back to normal life. But their efforts are hampered by pockets of fighting between Philippine forces and the Muslim rebels.

Meanwhile, more than 120,000 evacuees from the coastal villages that have become a war zone continue to pour into makeshift evacuation centers.

A regional sports complex overflows with more than 70,000 evacuees. The people live under miserable conditions but they have to stick it out.

The children are unable to go back to school and the families don't know if they have houses to go back to.

What pains most parents, like Merlyn Paulino, is seeing their children suffer the ill effects of war. She said they are traumatized.

"My husband on his way to work at 4 a.m. saw tanks and many soldiers in the street and so he went back to wake us up and our neighbors and ordered us to flee," Paulino recalled. "We ran in the fields in knee deep mud with our four children and we were all crying."

"As a mother I want to give my children food, comfort, but now we don't have the means," she said.

But the once distressed mom said she is now happy and the pain in her heart is relieved seeing her son John Paul having fun, singing, and playing games with the staff and volunteers from CBN's disaster relief team.

The CBN team is giving aid to the war victims, distributing food, trauma counseling, and psychological therapy for the children.

Part of the therapy includes watching the "Superbook" classic translated in Filipino.

"Thank you for coming to us. What you are doing is really helpful especially now that the schools have been closed for more than two weeks. They learn something by watching Superbook," Paulino said.

Everyone is hoping this war will be over but with the current situation, CBN disaster relief teams continue to provide physical, emotional, and spiritual help to the people of Zamboanga.

 

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Reporter

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