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Groups warn against abuses in Mindanao evacuation centers

Women, child refugees at risk of exploitation if government does not act, they say
Groups warn against abuses in Mindanao evacuation centers

Church and human rights groups warn that children and women in evacuation centers in Mindanao are vulnerable to abuse. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Published: July 07, 2017 05:38 AM GMT

Church and rights groups warned against possible abuses in evacuation centers as the conflict in the southern Philippines continues.

The non-government Center for Women’s Resources said displaced women and children are vulnerable to abuses in the centers.

Cham Perez, the center’s research head, called on the government to address the crisis "proactively," adding that women and children can fall victims to trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Perez cited cases of abuse in the aftermath of the 2013 siege in the city of Zamboanga, also in Mindanao, where displaced women were reportedly forced to engage in "sex for money."

At least half of the more than 400,000 refugees from the city of Marawi are women.

Perez also cited "gender-based abuses," like verbal and physical abuse, that usually happen in "militarized areas."

Sister Betsy Espana of the Our Lady of Triumph of the Cross congregation said displaced women likely victims of abuses by male refugees or residents.

"We are warning against people who are planning to capitalize on displaced people," said the nun.

As of July 5, the government's social welfare department has already provided some US$2.2 million worth of relief and psychosocial aid to refugees displaced by the fighting in Marawi.

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