Aiding the 'bakwits' of Maguindanao

(CNN Philippines) — Filipinos are aware of the lives lost during the fateful day of the Mamasapano firefight, but aside from the casualties, it has displaced many innocent Maguindanaoans.

The number of internally displaced or bakwits — derived from the word evacuate — as locals call them stand at 123,537 Maguindanaoans, according a report released last March 16 by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (ARMM-HEART).

These displacements are a result of the Mamasapano firefight last January 25 and the all-out offensive of the Armed Forces of the Philippines against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Related: Armed conflict displaces 120,000 in Mindanao

Dr. Julie Hall, United Nations (UN) resident coordinator ad interim, talked to CNN Philippines' Amelyn Veloso and Claudine Trillo on Friday (March 27), during the morning show, Headline News, to discuss the situation of the internally displaced people (IDP) in Maguindanao.

The IDPs in Maguindanao had to flee their homes because they felt unsafe due to the military operations in their areas.

They are now living in 75 evacuation centers outside of where main military operations are taking place, Hall said.

While many receive support from the local government, nongovernment organizations, and UN agencies, Hall said that the UN is concerned about the amount of time the displaced are not in the comfort of their homes.

"People can cope with short periods of displacement, but the bakwits are now on their second month of displacement and that concerns the UN," she said.

While their basic needs are met, major concerns such as the lack of fresh water supply still worry the UN.

She noted help has reached most areas, but not all areas are accessible because of the military operations, as it is "simply too dangerous in some areas to be penetrated."

Hall said that it is important that every IDP is accessed so that the assessment of their needs can be undertaken jointly by involved agencies for them to receive the relief that is required.

Aside from the physical disadvantages, Hall said their displacement also affects their psychological well-being because they are uncertain as to how long they will be displaced.

"The longer it goes on, the more difficult it becomes and the greater the challenges."

She said the government should address how long the military operations will go on for.

It doesn't stop there, though. Hall said that even after families go back to their homes, there should still be a well-planned and well-supported transition by the government and the involved agencies.