Philippines: Over 285,000 people displaced by tropical storm
Tropical Storm Washi (or Sendong), which hit the Philippines between 15 and 18 December, has left over 1,000 people dead and displaced over 285,000 people from their homes which were destroyed or damaged by floods and landslides. As of 21 December, more than 240,000 displaced people were taking shelter with relatives or in makeshift structures, and a further 44,000 in 58 evacuation centres. In total, over half a million people are believed to be affected, the majority of them in the worst-hit region of Northern Mindanao, including Cagayan de Oro City and Iligan City.
While the government, the Philippine Red Cross and NGOs have responded quickly, initial assessments by the government and the Humanitarian Country Team found that both local populations and those responding were overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. Washi is the nineteenth tropical storm to hit the Philippines in 2011, but the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported that the affected areas are seldom hit. The government has declared a national emergency and urgently requested international assistance.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has reported that more than 270,000 IDPs, in the evacuation centres or elsewhere, lack access to drinking water. The centres are also reported to be overcrowded, creating risks to the health and safety of IDPs. The government has highlighted that, in addition to emergency relief, the repair or reconstruction of almost 15,000 houses is needed to relieve this overcrowding and to allow displaced people to rebuild their lives as soon as possible. The permanent relocation of some families is being considered, due to the exposure of their homes to flash flooding from nearby rivers; thus their displacement in temporary shelters may become extended.
See also: IDMC page on internal displacement caused by conflict in the Philippines
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Indonesia: Thousands displaced by military operations in Papua’s central highlands
Operations conducted since early December by the Indonesian security forces against rebel forces of the Free Papua Movement (or OPM) in Paniai regency in the Papua’s central highlands have reportedly displaced significant numbers. The armed forces reportedly used grenades, heavy artillery and aerial bombardments during the offensive, which destroyed homes in 26 villages. Some 500 people fled in anticipation of the violence, and as many as 10,000 more may have been displaced from 130 villages during it, according to local sources.
Some displaced people sought refuge in the Enarotali area, and others with relatives. Many people are also likely to have gone into hiding in the forest. While some IDPs sheltering in the town hall in Enarotali may have received some assistance from local authorities, the majority have had to rely on help from host communities. The National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM) has urged the government to withdraw troops from the area to allow the IDPs to return.
See also: IDMC Indonesia country page
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Myanmar: Peace talks may bring end to conflict and displacement closer
On 10 December, the Myanmar government published the president’s order to the army to stop offensive action in Kachin State. Fighting between the Kachin Independence Organisation/Army (KIO/A) and the Myanmar army since June 2011 and human rights abuses by both sides have forced large numbers of people to flee their homes. Estimates of the number of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in camps in KIO/A-held territory went up to several tens of thousands, but could not be independently verified. Several UN agencies began providing relief to IDPs there in mid-December.
In Shan, Kayah, Kayin, and Mon States as well as Bago and Tanintharyi Regions, armed conflict led to new displacement between mid-2010 and mid-2011, according to the annual survey of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC). However, the government’s ongoing peace negotiations with ethnic non-state armed groups (NSAGs) have the potential to lead to a resolution of conflict and displacement. The government has taken unprecedented steps including its proposal to hold tripartite discussions with political opposition groups and NSAGs. In early December, a national peace agreement with the Shan State Army-South followed “initial peace agreements” signed on the state level earlier in the year with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), the National Democratic Alliance Army (Mongla), and the Fifth Brigade of the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
See also: IDMC Myanmar country page