A GIRL FROM MARAWI: What Marawi’s COVID Management Teach?

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By Samira Gutoc

It is a small city, ancient in its ways, rural in its vibe. It is proud of its culture manifested in mass gatherings but how did it survive the COVID crisis. It is sharing its best practices because its health sector is one of the most professional in the country.

While it is burdened with multiple displacements from the siege and Manila’s clearing operations and now COVID, but yet they, the Meranaos continue to make ends meet.  At the helm is siege “trained” and international NGO partners since time immemorial, Doctors Allen Minalang of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Health Office and Shalimar Rakiin of the Amai Pakpak Medical Center.

Some of their striking features:

Preparation is key. Its multi-sectoral taskforce was formed early since February first week with the PNP initiating contact tracing then.
Multi-stakeholder support. At CSOS and imams prompting, Minalang distributed informational materials in the mosques on Friday congregations. The army is helping with the information drive. Dedicated workforce. Their frontliners pride themselves in being available 24 by 7 in a place that hosted one of the biggest numbers of incoming arrivals of LSIs etc in the country at almost a hundred daily. Logistical support. Frontliners were provided transportation.

Early provision of PPEs outsourced from partners such as The Outstanding Women in the Nations Service (TOWNS) even before the Bayanihan Act To Heal As One downloaded funds from media support with videos uploaded in the local dialect.  Support of religious sectors. Mass gatherings for two religious holidays Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha were not as wide-spread because of memorandum passed to such effect.

Burial guidelines proposed and drafted by NCMF and passed in a Memorandum by DILG. As a proponent of pushing more experts to handle the IATF management, we remind the need to act with urgency especially to prioritize the hazard pay of the frontliners. Care for the carers for they have families to feed to.

This World Humanitarian Day, we dedicate a tribute to the frontliners including disaster risk DRRMO personnel who directly face the unseen enemy. They have not rested here in saving lives for THREE Years since the Marawi siege.

Last week, we were grateful for the zoom meeting to tackle Marawi Issues with Deputy Speaker Mujiv Hataman and Amihilda Sangcopan of Anak Mindanao. This was in preparation for a Tuesday House Hearing on Marawi rehabilitation chaired by Representative Lucy Gomez (Committee on Disaster Risk Reduction).

We hope and aspire that such zoom mechanisms can further reach the transitional shelters for they are the ones most vulnerable in this COVID environment and therefore are in need of immediate attention. We know we are running against time in the bid to finish Marawi rehabilitation and return citizens back to normalcy. This is back-tracked further by COVID. For a community that has 100k or so IDPs, how are we to explain only 1 thousand plus transitory (one room) shelters built. How could the homeowners of IDP residences, those abroad and outside Marawi access the services, how can a map and listing of owners, sharers, and renters be known when arbitration is yet to update?

As Marawi rehabilitation is a national concern, we urge that taxpayers ask its status and be engaged.

Our propositions are simple:

1) Rehabilitation must be people-centered and therefore their voice must be part of decision-making in the TFBM as asserted in the Senate Hearing convened by Senators JV Ejercito, Gringo Honasan and Sherwin Gatchalian in 2018.

2) Put electricity and water ABOVE ALL OTHER PROJECTS AS 1.1. and 1.2 , then people can now build their residences such compensation bill must include not just the short-term but long term impact of rehabilitation.

We are also interested in how the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) is disbursing the funds donated and allocated for Marawi and could COVID related needs of IDPs, programs, patients access such how is titling ongoing, what is the status of military reservations law over Marawi Ground Zero. We pray that all stakeholders find the light at this dark tunnel of frustration.

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