By Roy Ramos
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines
At least 59 Marawi city evacuees died due to dehydration and other diseases, said Philippines’ Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial in a report published by state-run Philippine News Agency.
At least 40 evacuees, who were staying outside evacuation centers, died of dehydration while 19 others lost their lives as a result of diseases contracted due to living in congested evacuation camps.
Ubial said that the Health Department has set up 68 evacuation camps in the nearby Iligan city, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro city for the 20,627 persons or 4,249 families displaced by the conflict.
The common diseases reported were acute gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infection, diarrhea and skin diseases, Ubial revealed.
A mass evacuation from Marawi city took place after Philippine military launched an operation against Daesh-linked Maute group in May.
Citing the health department’s data, she said that only 20,627 out of 280,581 evacuees are housed in the evacuation centers, adding that the remaining people are living with their families and friends.
“The thousands of evacuees staying outside the evacuation camps are our major health concern in terms of how fast our physicians and health workers can attend them,” she said.
Ubial added that she has directed the health department to launch a campaign to call on the other refugees staying outside the camps to visit the barangay, town and city health centers and hospitals for free health services.
The death toll from health diseases is higher than the latest number of civilians killed in the ongoing clashes between government forces and the Daesh-linked Maute group in Marawi City which is 26 as of Friday.
The number of people killed in the ongoing firefight between government troops and Daesh-linked terrorists in Marawi City in the southern island of Mindanao has risen to 310, a military official said Friday.
Lt. Col. Emmanuel Garcia, commander of the Armed Armed Forces' 4th Civil Relations Group, said 225 Maute armed group members, 59 security personnel and 26 civilians have been killed since the outbreak of hostilities on May 23; 1,629 civilians were also rescued by troops, local government units and civil society organizations.
President Rodrigo Duterte declared a martial law in Mindanao on May 23 in response to clashes in Marawi City that began when police and military made efforts to arrest Abu Sayyaf leader Isnilon Hapilon, the so-called emir of Daesh in South East Asia.
*Hader Glang contributed to this report from Zamboanga city, Philippines.