Caritas Philippines appeals for toys for Marawi children

Battle to clear terrorists from southern city enters a third month
Caritas Philippines appeals for toys for Marawi children

A Muslim family displaced by the fighting in the southern Philippine city of Marawi marks the second month of their stay in a tent in the neighboring town of Baloi on July 23. (Photo by Divina Suson)

The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines has appealed for toys and educational material for children displaced by the ongoing conflict in the southern city of Marawi.

Father Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of Caritas Philippines, said toys would help the children recover from the trauma they have experienced during the two-month siege of their city.

Some 300,000 people have been displaced since fighting between security forces and Islamic State-inspired terrorist gunmen erupted on May 23. Martial law has been declared across the southern region of Mindanao due to the fighting.

"Let us bring back the happiness and provide comfort to children," said Father Gariguez as he called for toy donations for some 3,000 children living in temporary shelters in the city of Iligan.

The toys will be part of "psychosocial interventions" of the Catholic Church's "rapid response appeal" for the conflict.

Caritas Philippines earlier allocated about US$198,000 as a "humanitarian response" to families affected by the conflict, especially for the essential needs of some 15,000 displaced individuals who sought shelter in Iligan.

Meanwhile, Bishop Edwin de la Pena of Marawi expressed support for a plan by displaced Muslim women to march back to Marawi this week to show their "frustration" over the situation.

"What these Muslim women are going to do is symbolic," said the prelate. 

"[It is] symbolic of their deep-seated anger and frustration of their status in the past 60 days and having to endure life in evacuation centers with nothing much to do," added Bishop De la Pena.

He said some displaced residents want to join the march to see what's happened to their city. "That's enough for them even if they return to being evacuees after," said the bishop.

"We just have to trust in the women's unique contribution to ending the war," he said.

Last week, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the situation in Marawi has started to stabilize even as the fighting continues into a third month.

"I am glad to share the news with you that at present, the status in Marawi is stabilizing and we are preparing for the rehabilitation," said Lorenzana.

Lorenzana announced that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has already earmarked US$395 million for the rehabilitation of Marawi.

"We are hoping that this will be over soon and that everything will be normal again," said the defense secretary.

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The fighting has resulted in the deaths of 413 terrorist gunmen, at least 100 soldiers and policemen, and at least 45 civilians.

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