Food and community spirit bring comfort to displaced families in Lanao del Sur
Support still needed as people begin to rebuild their lives in southern Philippines
“We fled early and walked under the heat of the sun for several hours. It was difficult, especially for the children. I couldn’t stop their tears,” says Sittie as she recalls the journey it took to reach the municipality of Marantao, Lanao del Sur where her family has settled.
More than a year since the onset of conflict between rebel groups and government forces in Marawi City, the World Food Programme (WFP) continues to provide food to affected families. Like many others, Sittie and her family left Marawi with nothing but the clothes on their backs. The loss of their belongings, however, pales in comparison to what the conflict also took from them. “I was pregnant when we evacuated,” recalls Sittie as she wipes tears from her eyes. With her husband Basher’s hand in hers, Sittie explains that the stress of the journey and lack of food took a toll on her body, leading to a loss too painful for a mother to express.
The family, including Sittie’s mother, settled in a house owned by her cousin, and, throughout the year, the community welcomed them with open arms.
“Most of what you see in our house was given to us by our neighbours and the rest of our community,” says Basher. “They took care of us, fed us, and shared what they could. Early on, they would give us Php 100 (US$ 2) or sometimes a bit of rice.”
While grateful for the help they have received, Sittie and Basher know they must also work to provide food for their children. In the nearby lake, Basher is able to catch janitor fish, which Sittie sells at the local market. “We can sell 30 pieces of fish for Php 80 which is enough for us to buy some vegetables to pair with the fish we’ve kept for ourselves,” says Sittie.
Now WFP and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Food For Peace programme are providing displaced and returning people with food. More than 45,000 people will receive 50 kg of rice per family every month for the next four months. Shortly after the onset of the Marawi crisis, WFP began working in close partnership with the Philippine Government, through Task Force Bangon Marawi, to provide life-saving food assistance to more than 198,000 people and support 60,000 children with emergency school meals.
“Whenever we receive help, we are thankful — it helps us survive. We don’t have much oftentimes, so we feel blessed to receive this food,” says Basher.
WFP and USAID’s food assistance helps families alleviate their urgent food concerns so they have one thing less to worry about as they look to rebuild their lives and livelihoods after the conflict.
However, much is still needed by displaced families, including Sittie’s. Pregnant once more, she explains that normal life could not start again without livelihood support. “We can only go back to normal if can have support to create a source of income such a sari-sari or small variety store,” she says. Sittie’s mother joins the conversation, requesting a sewing machine to help her create garments and clothes like she once did in Marawi.
Learn more about WFP’s work in the Philippines.