The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday expressed concern for the safety and well-being of at least 50,000 children affected by the clashes between government security forces and Maute terrorists in Marawi City.
UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander said some of the children might have been used by the terrorists either as combatants, camp accessories, informants or human shields against the military.
“We are deeply concerned about any action that may put children’s life and safety at risk and disrupt their overall development or access to basic social services such as education and healthcare,” Sylwander said.
She said the conflict could have severe and long-term impact on the children’s psychosocial and physical health
Despite the ongoing fighting, the UNICEF wants to ensure the children’s safety and continuous access to basic healthcare, nutrition and water and sanitation services.
Sylwander said the UNICEF is coordinating with the national government, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and non-government organizations (NGOs) in delivering basic services to affected communities in and around Marawi.
Noting that classes across the country will start next week, Sylwander urged the Armed Forces of the Philippines and local government agencies to ensure that schools in Marawi City and surrounding areas open on time.
Two elementary schools have been reported destroyed in the conflict that flared up last week.
Sylwander urged the local governments and law enforcement agencies to ensure that pathways and areas surrounding schools and residential communities are cleared of explosives planted by the Maute.
“It is important to keep children away from harm and injuries as they return to their communities or schools,” Sylwander said.(R.A. Ronda, PS)