In a report a few weeks ago, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center based in Geneva said that the Philippines had the most number of persons displaced by conflict last year – about 600,000. That is more than the number of refugees even in troubled African countries.
In one town in Maguindanao alone, more than 31,000 individuals have been displaced since August last year, and dozens have died in refugee camps, many of them children.
As the conflict between Moro guerrillas and the government rages on in Central Mindanao, the number of refugees is almost certain to increase, thus worsening an already dire humanitarian crisis.
Human-rights violations are rampant in Maguindanao, including food blockade, illegal arrest, disappearances and summary executions. According to reports, some refugees have died from shock caused by regular mortar shelling.
Unfortunately, despite the deepening humanitarian crisis, not much has been substantially reported in the media. There has not been constant reportage on the plight of the displaced, food blockades and restriction of visits by humanitarian groups.
This week, dozens of journalists from Mindanao and Manila participated in a three-day media visit and coverage of the war-affected communities. It was organized by the Mindanao Comstrat and Policy Alternatives in cooperation with MindaNews, the Center for Community Journalism and Development, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Peace and Conflict Journalism, and the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project.