PHOTOS: Atom Araullo's Visit to Mindanao With UNHCR

The UNHCR advocate shares his insights.

( The ongoing fighting in Marawi may not be the focus of mainstream media anymore but the fighting still continues, displacing as many as 359,680 people. Only 4% of these displaced citizens reside in government-managed evacuation centers in Iligan City and in neighboring municipalities. The majority are home-based or are in community-managed evacuation camps across seven regions.


Together with the United Nations Refugee Agency, broadcast journalist and United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) advocate Atom Araullo visited families in evacuation camps in Iligan City and the Lanao provinces, where they talked about their challenges and struggle for survival.


UNHCR staff and UNHCR Advocate Atom Araullo greet 100-year-old Moreg Sarakan, who walked the 40-kilometer stretch between Marawi and Iligan cities




Fatima Lumabao shares that four of her eight children went missing when they fled Marawi two months ago.



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“We still long for home, no matter how humble ours was. We wait for the day we will have peace in Marawi again,” shares 100-year-old Moreg Sarakan, who lives at the Buru-un Evacuation Center.  


"I hope the conflict does not drag on for years, and while families are temporarily displaced here, how are they going to live? They cannot rely on dole-outs all the time. When the crisis is over and when they return to their homes, how will they rebuild after they have lost all their belongings and their homes have been destroyed?" Araullo asked.



Janisa, 24, resides with her family at an evacuation center in Balo-i municipality, Lanao del Norte.



More than 315 families reside in this madrasah (Arabic school) in Ceanuri Subdivision, Iligan City. In this community-based evacuation camp, the sound of children attending Sunday school offers a semblance of normalcy while living away from home. 


He realized that providing support goes beyond basic needs like food, shelter, and emergency aid. He also hopes that these families will be assisted when they go back to their respective communities.


“I have covered displacement crises in the past, but it’s always different when you talk to the evacuees themselves. There are stories here about resilience and courage. They have all inspired me and I’m one with them in hoping that the conflict ends soon. But while it is ongoing, it is clear that we have to support them,” Araullo said.



These playmates step outside their tent in one of the evacuation camps in Balo-I, Lanao del Norte to go over their notes. 



UNHCR Advocate Atom Araullo meets Ustadz Adbulkarim Ambor (left), who heads the Madrasah-turned-evacuation camp in Ceanuri Subdivision, Iligan City.


Since the fighting began in May, UNHCR has been on the ground supporting the government-led response and providing life-saving assistance to the displaced families and communities. For his part, Araullo appealed to Filipinos to make sure they are engaged in the conversation not just with leaders but also with communities.



“[We should make] sure that everyone is aware of what’s going on here, and that we can count on these people and rally their support for displaced families, the people that are affected by conflict in Mindanao, in Marawi,” he said.


For more information on how to donate, log on to the UNHCR Philippines website.

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