How many people lived in your house while growing up?
Did you have your own bedroom? Your own bathroom? A family living room?
Faridah’s kids are currently sharing a roof with nearly 300 other children. They share toilets and none of them sleep in their own beds.
They are staying in an evacuation center, together with 133 families displaced by armed conflict in Marawi City.
“At first when we got here at the evacuation center, I cannot accept that this is what has happened to my life,” Faridah said in Filipino.
Before the crisis broke out, Faridah was an active community leader in Marawi. Now, she is helping organize evacuees in Lanao del Sur.
Faridah wants to empower her fellow parents, ensuring that they don’t lose hope amid their displacement. This conflict, she said, should not tear families apart. (WATCH: Giving birth in a time of crisis)
“Let’s help each other to make Marawi rise again,” said Faridah. “Because if we’re not united, what will happen to us?”
To escape Marawi, Faridah and her family hiked for nearly 7 hours. (WATCH: Kids walk hours just to escape)
The 43-year-old mother endured the long hike while carrying bags and her small children. Since they were on a rush, her kids only managed to bring two items of clothing each.
Faridah’s family did not own a car and could not hail a tricycle, so they were forced to flee on foot.
Several other families were doing the same, doing all they could just to survive. “It was like I was watching a tsunami,” said Faridah. “Because it seemed that everyone left Marawi.”
Faridah initially thought that they would be able to return to Marawi after a week, however, the crisis is still ongoing.
Several families like Faridah’s have been staying in evacuation centers for more than 3 months now.
Life as an evacuee
Gone are the days when Faridah could cook delicious and nutritious meals for her children.
In the evacuation center, her family usually eats canned goods, instant noodles, and rice. Sometimes there’s fresh fish, she said.
Thanks to the help of the local and national government, non-government organizations, and donors, families like Faridah’s received medical and sanitation assistance.
However, a lot more is yet to be done.
“Displaced children here really lack clothes,” Faridah said. Since some kids lack clothes and school supplies, they feel hesitant in going back to class.
As a mother, Faridah not only wishes for the safety of her own children. She also hopes for normalcy to return to all families displaced from their peaceful lives in Marawi.
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