International aid agency Oxfam called for an “immediate end of violence and hostilities” in the Bangsamoro region in the southern Philippines, saying at least 15,000 families have already been displaced due to the armed conflict in recent months.
“While most people are asked to stay at home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus, some were forced to flee their homes to save their lives,” the organization noted in a statement posted on its Philippine website on June 20, World Refugee Day.
Oxfam joined other civil society organizations and humanitarian agencies in the country in calling for the suspension of military action of both government forces and non-state armed groups, especially in the provinces of Sulu, Basilan, Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi, where armed conflicts are reportedly happening.
The organization said the cessation of hostilities would be a good opportunity to address the underlying causes of violence in the region. Among the steps suggested by the group is the promotion of peace dialogues among parties involves in armed conflict.
“We show our utmost support to the call for just and lasting peace and for genuine people’s participation in conflict resolution and management in the Bangsamoro region,” read the Oxfam statement.
It also suggested the linking of peace-building efforts of various organizations to find solutions to address root causes of poverty and violence in the area.
“We also support the call for government initiatives that will contribute to the economic growth and long-term development of armed conflict areas,” it added.
“We need to build back confidence alongside peace-building if we want to address the underlying causes of the armed conflict,” said Oxfam’s Philippine office.
The organization and its partners have earlier implemented cash transfer programs using digital financial services to improve the welfare of communities affected by the conflict, hasten the delivery of social services, and boost local economies.
Oxfam and other civil society groups, in partnership with local government units, have been providing life-saving support to families displaced by the armed conflict with food, water, sleeping materials, hygiene kits, and psychological first aid.
Besides losing or having their homes damaged, tens of thousands of Filipinos in the Bangsamoro region are now facing food insecurity, poor sanitation, lack of livelihood and access to clean water and medical services, said Oxfam.