PAGTUTULUNGAN.ORG: Aquino Government Hails new study on the Impact of Central Mindanao Conflict and Displacement

Research commissioned by the World Bank and World Food Programme notes persistent challenges after displaced households return to their homes.

Cycles of violent conflict in Central Mindanao have resulted in the mass displacement of nearly a million people from their homes over the past 12 years. In 2003, tens of thousands were displaced by armed conflict and, more recently, thousands of families had to leave their homes yet again when fighting escalated in parts of Zamboanga Sibugay and Basilan in October 2011. Currently, several thousand people across Mindanao remain displaced, particularly in Maguindanao. 

Disrupting livelihoods are presenting major challenges to both affected families and the government, these concerns do not necessarily end with the return of displaced individuals to their places of origin, a study by the World Bank (WB) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) during a launch at the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster revealed.

The survey, conducted in the last quarter of 2010, interviewed 2,759 randomly selected households from a total of 231 barangays across five provinces – Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), as well as Lanao del Norte, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat.

The study – ”Violent Conflicts and Displacement in Central Mindanao: Challenges for Recovery and Development” – reveals that four in every ten households in the surveyed areas experienced displacement from 2000 to 2010, with one in five displaced two or more times, and one in ten forced to leave their homes up to five times during this period.

Displacement is detrimental to livelihoods, welfare and social cohesion across virtually every key indicator: food security, access to basic services, income poverty and housing, the study found.
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman welcomes the report’s “important insights on the inter-related dimensions of conflict, displacement and economic growth” in Central Mindanao. “The data provides a basis that will allow the relevant departments of government and other development partners to offer targeted recovery and render extensive development support in affected areas, especially in the most vulnerable households,” she said.

Secretary Teresita “Ging” Quintos-Deles of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) also lauds the study, finding the report a “very relevant guide” in government efforts to address the needs of conflict-affected communities under the current Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities or PAMANA) program.

“It is also important that interventions under PAMANA be based on detailed knowledge of livelihood opportunities and access to land, credit availability and food supply. These indicators vary from place to place,” Secretary Deles noted. 

For his part, World Bank Country Director Motoo Konishi observed that the report sheds considerable light on the nature and extent of vulnerability across provinces, population categories, and livelihood groups in affected areas. “It can shape the operational choices of humanitarian, recovery and development agencies and improve outcomes for the population on the ground,” he said.

WFP Representative and Country Director Stephen Anderson meanwhile said that the study would help agencies like WFP “better target food assistance as well as help communities strengthen their resilience to conflict and natural disasters.” 

Mr. Anderson noted that “the two ARMM provinces in Central Mindanao – Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur – suffer the highest levels of food insecurity. This is exacerbated by high levels of exposure to shocks, such as recurrent flooding and crop disease that make people poorer and more food insecure.” 

Looking at the vulnerability of communities in Central Mindanao, the study found that households experiencing displacement have been “frequently exposed to violence.”  Movements of armed military and rebel groups were cited by 29 percent of the surveyed households as one primary cause of their displacement, while 9 percent blamed it on clan conflict or rido.

The report said that host families also feel the pressures of displacement from additional financial costs. Some host families, usually relatives, “had to resort to selling goods or assets to provide food and support” for the displaced people they were hosting.

Of the areas surveyed, Maguindanao province accounted for the highest degree of vulnerability, with about 82 percent of all households in the area affected by displacement due not only to violent conflict but also to weather-related disasters. These displacements represented the two poorest wealth quintiles, where households suffered the highest levels of food insecurity and the lowest incomes.

When asked to identify their top priorities, surveyed households ranked money, employment, food, health and education, in that order. Respondents called for government attention to these basic needs, as well as the construction of roads and the need of electricity.

Respondents also identified economic development, the signing of a peace agreement and ending impunity as critical interventions

The DSWD and OPAPP, in partnership with the World Bank and WFP, plan to disseminate the results of this study through a series of presentations in various fora in Manila and Mindanao.

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