El NiNo taking heavy toll on Mindanao, says UN.
Byline: Ronnel W. Domingo
THE UNITED Nations is keeping the alarm raised on El NiNo-caused drought that may result in food shortage as well as the spread of diseases in the worst-affected areas in Mindanao, especially among people displaced by natural calamities and armed conflict.
In a report released last Friday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted that while the ongoing El NiNo has affected large areas of the Philippines, the most severe damage to agriculture is concentrated in Mindanao.
About half of the total 194,000 hectares of affected farm areas are in Mindanao, 87 percent of which crops have no chance of recovery, the UN Ocha said.
The report zeroed in on Zamboanga City, where the local government expects that up to 30 percent or 3,500 hectares of rice fields may be lost in the coming months as drought persists.
The UN Ocha also noted that the City Health Office was concerned that water shortages may raise the risks of diarrhea and other waterborne diseases among children and other vulnerable groups, adding that six evacuees reportedly died last December and January.
The agency added that, with fears of the mounting impact of El NiNo on food security and health of the evacuees, city authorities are resuming food distribution-including kitchen sets and cash-to all transition sites for 11 months starting March.
However, temporary assistance to address the immediate needs of the IDPs alone cannot provide durable solutions to their displacement, the UN Ocha said.
As of mid-February, just over 2,000 out of the planned 6,500 permanent housing units under the government's Zamboanga Recovery, Reconstruction and Rehabilitation (Z3R) were completed, it said. With an increasing delay in the Z3R implementation timeline, aid agencies fear that most of the remaining evacuees may be left in limbo into the third year of displacement.
Evacuees were left homeless when a group linked to the Moro National Liberation Front attacked the city in September 2013.
According to UN Ocha, other humanitarian agencies on the ground-including Community and Family Services International, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Labor Organization, International Organization for Migration and UN Refugee agency-continue to support local authorities with providing camp management, protection, civil documentation, livelihood and community engagement assistance to the evacuees.