A year after the liberation of Marawi, thousands of children still miss out on school while families remain in cramped evacuation centers.
More than 350,000 people fled Marawi after fighting broke out on May 23 last year.
At least 86,000 children were affected by the conflict with an estimated 22,700 who missed out on their classes, based on the Child Protection Rapid Assessment (CPRA) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
Save the Children Philippines has launched the “Balik Marawi, Balik Eskwela,” project over the weekend to provide 1,000 school age children in Marawi and those attending schools in Lanao del Sur to have access to safe and equipped learning spaces. The four-month project with funding assistance worth P1.9 million Insular Foundation Inc. runs from October 2018 to February 2019.
Lawyer Albert Muyot, CEO of Save the Children Philippines, said the project facilitates purchase of school materials such as teacher’s tables, children’s armchairs and teacher kits for Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) and implementation of interventions.
“The conflict has left scars on hundreds of children that are difficult to heal,” said Muyot. He said that the DSWD report cited the psychological impact of humanitarian crises on children.
The DSWD report said children suffer psychological stress during disasters and emergencies. These include different reactions such as sleeping problems, nightmares, withdrawal, concentration problems, guilt feelings.
Children stop going to school due to financial constraints since their parents had little to no source of income while they were in evacuation camps.
Muyot said resuming classes for displaced children of Marawi addresses the psychosocial problems among affected children in Marawi.
Displaced children regain a sense of normality and routine in classrooms, said Muyot. “School also gives children the opportunity to be with their friends, to have fun and forget about what they have been through, and offers protection from risks they’re vulnerable to,” he added.
Save the Children Philippines calls on local governments in Marawi to implement RA 10821 or Children in Emergency and Relief Act of 2016 that addresses the needs of children before, during and after a disaster and emergency. The Comprehensive Emergency Program for Children (CEPC) lines up disaster risk reduction measures to ensure safety of children during emergencies such as Marawi conflict.
RA 10821, the first legislation of its kind in Asia was passed in 2016 following the experience of Typhoon Haiyan where 6 million children were affected and led to massive deaths and destruction of properties and infrastructure.
With over 6,000 people dead, Typhoon “Haiyan” (local name “Yolanda”) opened the minds of government agencies and civil society organizations on the need for implement a coordinated humanitarian response to address the vulnerabilities of children in times of disasters and emergencies.
The law mandates local officials to establish the following in their respective cities and provinces:
• A Comprehensive Emergency Program to protect and safeguard children, and promotes human rights, ensures children have access to essential services for immediate recovery.
• Heightened Surveillance against child trafficking and other forms of violence and abuse against children in the aftermath of disasters and calamities
• Increased participation of children in disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning and post-disaster needs assessment
• A system of restoring civil documents for children and their families to better access services and protection against the exploitation
• Less disruption of educational services with limited use of schools as evacuation centers and proper use of temporary learning spaces.
• Improved care and process for family tracing and reunification for orphaned, unaccompanied and separated children.
• Improved data collection and reporting related to affected children for better understanding of their needs.
• Child-centered training and standard setting for all responders for community and village leaders, school personnel and rescuers.
“Save the Children Philippines stands ready to help in rebuilding the war stricken city,” said Muyot. The effective implementation of RA 10821 in cities and municipalities through the CEPC will ensure protection of rights and welfare of children.