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UN warns of humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga

Alarm over plight of thousands caught up in clashes

UN warns of humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga

Displaced families set up a temporary shelter in Zamboanga (Photo by Erwin Mascarinas) reporter, Zamboanga City

September 26, 2013

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The United Nations has warned that the southern city of Zamboanga is facing a "humanitarian crisis" as fighting continued between government troops and Islamic militants today.

Luiza Carvalho, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Philippines, estimated more than 10,000 homes have been destroyed, leading to the displacement of more than 109,000 people in Zamboanga City and 19,000 more in nearby Basilan province.

“We are increasingly alarmed by the situation and the growing needs of people caught up with violence," Carvalho said in a statement yesterday.

"There is a real risk of a disease outbreak and an urgent need for food, drinking water, health services, cooking utensils, tents and other necessities," she added.

"We are particularly concerned that aid is delivered in an impartial manner, with the needs of the most vulnerable met and those outside the evacuation centers not forgotten," said Carvalho.

The Australian government announced that it will provide up to A$252,000 (US$236,550) in emergency aid for families left homeless by the crisis.

"We are deeply concerned by the recent violence in Mindanao and the effect this has had on local people," said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Bill Tweddell.

Meanwhile, the fighting showed no signs of ending despite government assurances a few days ago that the rebels were nearly defeated in Zamboanga.

Ongoing clashes between government forces and rebel Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) fighters left five soldiers and three rebels dead early today as fighting continued into a third week.

The hostilities also resulted in the capture of 45 MNLF fighters and the rescue of six hostages. At least 11 other soldiers were also reported injured in the gun battle as the military conducted clearing operations in three villages earlier occupied by rebels.

"The rogue MNLF elements encountered by the marines this morning had been in the area since day one," said Major Angelo Guzman, military deputy public affairs office chief.

As of 6am today, 173 people have been killed in the Zamboanga violence, 138 of them rebels and 12 civilians.

The military has said that 162 rebels have been captured and 56 surrendered but the number remaining at large is still an unknown.

"We are still doing an assessment. The operating troops are talking to the hostages and those who were captured to validate how many (MNLF fighters) are left," said military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Ramon Zagala.

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