World

'Humanitarian catastrophe' in Mindanao

PARIS: Fighting in the troubled southern Philippine region of Mindanao has combined with extreme weather events to create a "humanitarian catastrophe", French aid groups said yesterday.

Around one million people have fled their homes in the region, according to Thibault Henry, head of the Philippines chapter of the charity Acted.

"Basic needs are not covered," Mr Henry told AFP.

"Clearly it's a huge humanitarian crisis, a catastrophe, that will affect the region for many years," he said, noting that more than half of the population live in poverty.

Early last month, a top government official estimated the number of displaced at 400,000.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group, and government forces, with US military backing, are battling militants who support the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in the region.

Hundreds of ISIS supporters occupied parts of the city of Marawi in late May in a conflict that has claimed more than 700 lives. Mindanao was struck by typhoons in 2012 and 2013 and a drought in 2016, Mr Henry noted, adding that other rebel movements affected other parts of the region.

Ms Vanessa Cardamone of Handicap International said conflict combined with extreme weather events had created a "complex crisis".

She said only six per cent of those displaced are in camps, while most are lodging with private individuals.

The 10,000-strong MILF has been leading a decades-long rebellion to establish an independent or autonomous homeland in Mindanao for the Philippines' Muslim minority. - AFP

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