HotSpots H2O: Two Years After Siege, Thousands Still Lack Clean Water in Philippines City

Bombing of Marawi City. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Two years after an Islamic State siege on Marawi, tens of thousands of people still have not returned to their homes in the lakeside city in the southern Philippines.

During and after the five-month siege, aid groups worked to provide food, water, medicine, and shelter to the people of Marawi. Humanitarian efforts have continued, but residents are growing restless and say some essentials–including steady access to clean water–are going unmet.

“Despite the numerous aid efforts that have truly helped those in need over the two years, the people of Marawi have grown tired and frustrated. They want to stand on their own feet again and stop depending on assistance,” said Martin Thalmann, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in the Philippines, during a recent visit to the fractured city.

At the height of the conflict, more than 350,000 people fled Marawi, relocating to evacuation centers, makeshift camps, or the homes of friends and family. Although many residents have returned home, perhaps 73,000 are still in limbo, waiting on government promises of reconstruction.

“We had a comfortable life before. Now we live in between shelters, enduring heat, the lack of water, the lack of everything,” Mohammad Ali Acampong, a local government official living in temporary housing with his family of eight, said in an interview with Reuters.

Government officials and Bangon Marawi, an inter-agency task force, say reconstruction is on track to be completed by 2021. Many areas of the city, though, are still a jumble of destroyed buildings, debris, and unexploded ordnances. For those living in temporary housing, jobs are difficult to find, further limiting options.

An interview this month with President Rodrigo Duterte cast further doubt on the speed of Marawi’s recovery. Duterte said the central government would cease additional spending on rebuilding efforts. He expressed frustration with local efforts.

As rebuilding lags, some fear that pro-Islamic State militants will strike the city a second time. Militants who survived the Marawi siege are now scattered among other extremist groups in the southern Philippines.

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