UN assures to continue food aid to conflict areas in Mindanao

July 11, 2009 7:26 pm 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, July 11 –The United Nation assures it will continue its humanitarian undertakings in Mindanao even as it restricts its personnel from traveling in the area for "a one week period" only, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said today.

The DFA did not specify the UN agency and the kind of assistance three days after the World Food Program (WFP) suspended on Wednesday its food rationing program for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao, estimated at close to 400,000.

The UN imposed a travel restriction to Mindanao for the week starting July 6 as a precautionary measure following the spate of bombings in the region that have killed and wounded many people, United Nations resident coordinator ad interim Dr. Soe Nyunt-U said today in a statement on the organization's food aid for Mindanao and implementation of its WFP in the area.

The DFA said the travel restriction was a precautionary measure to protect the UN's officers and workers as several incidents of bombings occurred last week in Central Mindanao, particularly in Cotabato City, Jolo, Sulu and Iligan City in Lanao del Sur. The blasts left seven persons dead and at least 50 others wounded.

The DFA reiterated that "restrictions are being undertaken pursuant to long-established UN standard operating procedure governing security clearances for UN missions and operations worldwide, and for evaluating situations in the field that impact on the security of its personnel."

"UN strives to continuously ensure the safety and security of all staff to allow us to carry out our mission and reach out to targeted beneficiaries," the UN statement said.

In a separate statement, the DFA said the United Nations officials have assured that UN agencies would continue to undertake humanitarian assistance programs in Mindanao, notwithstanding the decision to temporarily restrict the travel of UN personnel in parts of the island.

"According to the UN, the travel of UN personnel to and within Mindanao has merely been restricted for a one-week period, as the UN Department of Safety and Security monitors and assesses the security situation in certain areas, in light of recent developments," the DFA statement said.

WFP suspended food deliveries for July, which would have given each IDP with 25 kilos of rice, 10 kilos of mung beans and 5 kilos of oil.

WFP officer Pia Facultad said their activities would resume when it is believed safe for its workers to travel.

Facultad said the WFP was following UN guidelines on workers in conflict areas, but assured that the suspension would not render IDPs hungry.

"We are complementing the assistance of Philippine government agencies on this activity and the IDPs are taken cared of" by such agencies as the Department of Social Welfare, Armed Forces of the Philippines and non-governmental partners.

"UN remains committed to supporting the Government of the Philippines’ efforts in its assistance to Mindanao with focus on further improving our humanitarian response and long-term development efforts given the complex nature of the current displacement in Mindanao," the UN statement said.

"Forthcoming food distributions and missions will recommence as soon as travel restrictions are lifted, " it said. (PNA)



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