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Philippines: Crisis Unfolds, End To Fighting Urged

Philippines: Ban urges end to fighting as humanitarian crisis unfolds

12 August 2008 - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appealed for restraint by the parties to the conflict in the southern Philippines, where ongoing clashes between Muslim rebels and Government troops have forced about 130,000 people to flee their homes.

"The Secretary-General is concerned about the unfolding humanitarian crisis as a result of fighting in central Mindanao, an area which has already been affected by conflict for several decades," according to a statement issued by his spokesperson.

Mr. Ban appealed for restraint, protection of all civilians as well as access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population, and stated the UN's readiness to support the efforts of the Government of the Philippines in this regard.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP), for its part, announced today it will begin providing an initial 400 metric tons of rice to assist 96,000 people for at least one month in the conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato. This includes Mindanao, which has witnessed continued fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Government troops for several decades.

"WFP fully understands that the situation remains fluid, and we will continue to work closely with all concerned to further assess the total number of affected persons and adjust our response accordingly," said Stephen Anderson, WFP's new Country Director in the Philippines.

"WFP remains concerned over the growing number of persons displaced by the violence between the armed forces and the MILF. Many of the affected population are women and children, and we are concerned for their well-being and stand ready to support humanitarian needs," he said.

According to Government officials, almost 130,000 people have been displaced from 42 villages in North Cotabato province since the fighting began last week. They will be provided with food support in some 43 evacuation centres in the province.

WFP's response, which comes at the request of the provincial Government of North Cotabato, aims to support the Mindanao peace process by providing food aid to meet urgent needs, as an immediate "peace dividend" for conflict-affected communities.

"We hope for peace, so that these families can return to their communities," said Mr. Anderson.

ENDS

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