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Fire destroys 1000 homes in Philippines' poorest slum area

Fire destroys 1000 homes in Philippines' poorest slum area

A raging fire has ripped through the poorest slum village in the Philippines over the weekend leaving up to 10,000 people homeless.

Gradon Harvey, International Needs (NZ) executive director, says eye witness accounts say the blaze started from an uncontrolled house fire.

“The fire started at about 8pm on Saturday night (1am NZT Sunday 6 April) and swept across the Bajao slum village and a neighbouring Muslim village in Isla Verde, Davao. The fire took over quickly, destroying 90 percent of the area within three hours including houses, churches and schools. So far, there haven’t been any recorded fatalities,” says Mr Harvey.

According to Mr Harvey the Bajao people are the poorest ethnic group in the Philippines.

“We have a situation where the Bajao people and neighbours are now facing unbelievable hardship. They are already social lepers within their own society, traditionally known as sea nomads who lived in boats and moved from one island to the next in search of fish. But their history is vague and full of myth, which makes them misunderstood to this day and an easy target for marginalisation.

"Their children do not normally attend school as their illiterate families find it too hard to register their children’s births. Instead, families make a living selling pearls, used clothing and by begging,” says Mr Harvey.

International Needs has recently started working with the Bajao people through a preschool that was built for the Bajao by a Christian organisation.

A small amount of water is being distributed and a first aid station has been set up to help the wounded, however, they are desperate for more help.

“In a country where there is so much need, this is devastating. We are appealing to New Zealanders to help us with the basics of like food, utensils for eating and cooking, as well as shelter. Please donate today to help these people in need,” says Mr Harvey.

Anyone wanting to donate can visit International Needs website on or phone 0800 4 NEEDS (63337).


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