Jul 16, 2009
On July 27, AAI president Albert Santoli will depart for the Philippines for an emergency relief mission to assist more than 90,000 men, women and children who have been displaced by heavy fighting in central Muslim Mindanao. The evacuees are living in muddy open fields, under heavy rains with minimal plastic tarps to protect them. The temporary encampments have no clean water or sanitation facilities resulting in high incidences of fatal fevers, diarrhea, viral infections and dehydration. AAI's interfaith Catalysts for Peace, led by AAI coordinator Rohaniza Sumndad, will distribute medicines, re-hydration salt and water purification tablets. At present, AAI receives no government funding. We are appealing for public donations to successfully conduct this mission.
As of June 30, the United Nations World Food Program and the Philippine government claim at least 359,000 Internally Displaced Persons. AAI is targeting a group of 30,000 evacuees in Lanao del Sur, 30,000 evacuees in Datu Piang, and another 30,000 in close vicinity in Maguindanao Province. In Datu Piang, the tragic death of a seven month old baby girl, Zaida (see photo above), epitomizes the danger to the most vulnerable - infants and grandparents - who have no protection from the elements. More than 65% are under the age of 18, with a high number of infants and toddlers.
Baby Zaida, her three brothers and sisters, and her parents had lived under harsh conditions in an open area surrounding a public school since Apil. Local authorities and the Red Cross are overwhelmed by the large number of families who have left their homes with only the clothes on their back. The UN has just ordered their agencies, including the WFP to temporarily withdraw from the area because of ongoing bombings and other incidents of violence.
AAI president Santoli reflects, "The ongoing tragedy in Mindanao, whether in Datu Piang and the surrounding area or in the deep southern islands of Sulu, is nearly invisible to the rest of the world. We have found that Christians and Muslims are willing to work together for peace and to help each other create a better future for their children. Our role is to make sure that they are not forgotten. Through saving the lives of innocents, not only is this initiative a local inspiration, but it is a positive example for other troubled regions of the world."
AAI and our Catalysts for Peace cannot do this alone. We need your help. No contribution is too small. One dollar of water purification can save the life of one child. Help us build peace, one child at a time.
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