As Philippines battle grinds on, some displaced die in centers

Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:41am EDT
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By Simon Lewis and Manuel Mogato

MARAWI CITY, Philippines (Reuters) - Four weeks since fierce fighting broke out in the southern Philippines, some people who fled the battle are dying in over-crowded and unsanitary evacuation centers, health officials say.

At least 24 people have died in the centers since fighting between security forces and Islamist militants erupted in Marawi City, Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial told reporters.

Alinader Minalang, the health director for the Lanao del Sur province which includes Marawi, said 300 cases of diarrhoea had been recorded among the nearly 40,000 people huddled in emergency shelters set up in community halls, gymnasiums and Islamic schools.

Many of those who died were elderly and had pre-existing conditions, but at least two of the fatalities were due to diarrhoea.

"The cause of the increase in diarrhoea cases is sanitation issues and a lack of sources of potable water," Minalang said.

In the centers, families of up to a dozen people sleep together on concrete floors, and in some places hundreds are sharing a single toilet.

"My children are getting sick. One has diarrhoea and another has an allergic reaction on his skin – the water we have to use here is not good," said Tarhata Mostare, who was staying with more than 800 people in a high school hall in Iligan City, 40 km (25 miles) km from Marawi.

She walked out of Marawi City along with thousands of others just hours after delivering her fifth child, and trekked for hours with the infant swaddled in cloth and her own traditional malong, or long skirt, drenched in blood.   Continued...

Children, who left their homes with their families to avoid the intense fighting between government forces and insurgents from the Maute group, eat their meals inside the evacuation centre in Baloi Village, Lanao Del Norte, Philippines June 19, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco