IOM supports displaced persons and communities in fight against COVID-19 in the Philippines

  • UN Migration Organization is helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 in Southern Philippines where the majority of internally displaced persons and communities live

MANILA, Philippines – As the number of COVID-19 confirmed cases rise in the Philippines, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is focusing on supporting against the spread of the pandemic the most vulnerable internally displaced persons (IDPs) and communities across the southern region of Mindanao.  

Natural disasters and recurrent conflict have left nearly 300,000 IDPs across the country, primarily in Mindanao. IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) reveals these IDP communities lack access to basic livelihoods, live in close confinement in evacuation centres, and have limited access to health, water, sanitation and hygiene – all factors that significantly increase the risk of COVID-19 community transmission.  

With the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on 21 April reaching 6,459 – with 428 deaths – in a country of over 106 million people, IDPs and surrounding communities are considered particularly vulnerable. 

Since October 2019, IOM has been working with local government units in the North Cotabato earthquake-affected areas to provide emergency and life-saving assistance, including shelter, camp management assistance and cash support to poor IDPs. Most of the nearly 200,000 earthquake-induced displaced people (more than 48,000 families), are staying in either makeshift shelters exposed to extreme weather elements, or in overcrowded evacuation centres with limited Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) facilities.  

Because these living conditions put them at a higher risk of contracting and developing the infectious disease, IOM has been rapidly increasing its activities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among the IDP communities. That effort has included the construction of 75 WASH facilities – latrines, handwashing stations, and bathing cubicles – in the displacement sites across North Cotabato. Community hygiene and disinfection kits also have been distributed to vulnerable sites to promote infection prevention in communal areas.  

Finally, IOM is supporting local COVID-19 contingency planning, focusing on inclusion of communities in camp or camp-like settings.   

Kristin Dadey, IOM Chief of Mission in the Philippines said, “We are racing against the clock to work with local government to implement initiatives that will protect the most fragile and displaced populations against COVID-19. This includes building additional water and sanitation facilities in the evacuation centres and implementing cash-for-work schemes that help poor families with no livelihoods to access essential supplies – such as food and medicines. With this, we aim to ensure socioeconomic protection for the IDPs as COVID-19 is having a devasting impact on the local economy.” 

The activities are supported by funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and from United Nations Member States through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  

As part of IOM’s revised global COVID-19 Response Plan, the IOM Mission in the Philippines requires USD 6.3 million to support the Government’s efforts to address the health and socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. 

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