“I can’t sleep at night,” Hapsa said in her mother tongue. “We can’t hear anything but gunshots.”
These words came from an 11-year-old girl.
The 6th grader is just one of the 80,000 children affected by the ongoing conflict in Marawi City.
Hapsa was among the thousands of families who endured hours of travel – either by foot or by car – just to escape the city in flames.
This is her story.
When clashes between a local armed group and government forces broke out in Marawi, Hapsa's mother immediately took her and her siblings out of the house, seeking shelter at an office building.
There, the family hid for three days, waiting for gunshots to stop – but they never did.
“We ran out of food to eat,” Hapsa said. “We survived on rice and salt alone.”
Hapsa is now back to school.
She wonders if her old school in Marawi still exists. Was it bombed? Was it spared? She doesn’t know.
Schools hosting displaced children like Hapsa are running short on school supplies, books, teachers, and classrooms. This is due to the influx of transferee students.
Despite difficulties in her new school, Hapsa is determined to learn. “I want to be a lawyer, so I can help others,” the little girl said, smiling.
In class, some children drew their houses, with helicopters hovering over the roof, dropping bombs. Others drew their family, showing frowning faces.
These children are longing for home. They long for safety, for normalcy.
Children like Hapsa are losing their schools, homes, and loved ones.
They are losing their childhood.
Her mother could no longer buy food since all the stores were either closed or destroyed.
Hapsa tried her best to comfort her younger siblings ages 5, 4, and 3. “I always hugged them.”
It was not just children who grew frightened, “My mother was also very afraid, she cannot sleep.”
One day, her uncle arrived with a big truck. “We hitched a ride with him, going to Iligan,” Hapsa narrated. “We were going to an evacuation center, then to my auntie’s house.”
The drive took about an hour, taking much longer due to the heavy volume of people fleeing.
Meanwhile, some families had no access to vehicles. They had to travel by foot, traversing dark and mountainous paths for as long as six hours.
Marawi’s children need us now, we cannot make them wait.
Save the Children is providing education, hygiene, and psychosocial support.
We’re distributing Hygiene Kits and Back-to-School Kits to ensure that children’s health and education will not suffer during this time of crisis. We’re also providing Temporary Learning Spaces and Teaching Kits to support host schools and teachers.
And we’re giving Psychosocial Support and counselling to children, to help them process and cope with what has happened.
Exposure to such violence can have long-term effects on children. We need to protect both their physical and mental well-being.
Help us Save Marawi’s children. Donate today, save lives.