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Panel to keep track of Marawi rebuilding efforts

Mental health of residents in besieged Philippine city a growing concern

  • Smoke billows at the site of fighting between government soldiers and Maute group, near a mosque in Marawi CitImage Credit: REUTERS
  • Smoke billows from burning houses as fighting between government troops and Islamist militants continues in MaImage Credit: AP
Gulf News

Manila: The Philippine Senate has formed a special committee that will monitor government efforts to rebuild Marawi after weeks of fighting have left parts of the city in shambles and lives of residents shattered.

“The extent of the damage sustained by Marawi City and the large number of displaced citizens caused by the rebellion requires a well-coordinated large-scale rebuilding effort on the part of the government,” Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III said after the Senate late Wednesday agreed to create a special panel that would focus on monitoring efforts to rehabilitate and reconstruct the city.

On May 23, government forces moved in to arrest leaders of the Daesha-allied Maute and Abu Sayyaf. The attempt at arresting the militants triggered an uprising in Marawi City as the conflict displaced 389,300 individuals.

Three months into the fighting, the military said the number of militants are down to some 60 armed men from more than 600. The diehard Islamists however, continue to hold about a hundred hostages which prevent government forces from mounting an all-out assault.

The military and police have already liberated nearly the entire city save for one village where the hostages are being kept.

Pimentel said the special Senate committee, formed through Senate Resolution No. 457 will be tasked to study, review, assess, examine, investigate, and inquire into matters relating to the rebuilding of Marawi City.

The committee was constituted with Senator Honasan as Chair, and Senators Lacson, Poe, Ejercito, and Aquino as members.

“This is the Senate’s contribution to President Duterte’s call for full support, assistance, and cooperation for Task Force Bangon Marawi (Recover). The Senate will respond to the plea for help of our brothers and sisters from Marawi City,” Pimentel said.

Meanwhile, reports reaching Manila said local officials in Marawi City and areas where refugees are located have declared a mental health crisis due to the number of people showing signs of mental illness.

Zia Alonto Adiong, spokesperson of the Lanao del Sur Provincial Crisis Committee said during television interviews that the long drawn conflict, dire conditions at the evacuation centres and personal and material losses, are taking a toll on the mental health of the refugees.

According to the Department of Health, it had already provided psychological counselling to 31,663 individuals as of July 27. About 78 cases require medication and treatment in a designated facility.

The number of reported mental health related cases had prompted Senator Jose Victor Ejercito to call on the health department to act swiftly and attend to the reported “mental health crisis” in Marawi City.

“While I hope this mental health issue is a false alarm, what’s important is that we look into this matter, provide the necessary medical and counselling intervention to evacuees manifesting disturbance, and provide immediate curative measures,” he said.

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