UN OCHA launches an online platform to help local government units and NGOs learn the needs of those affected by the armed conflict
MANILA, Philippines (Aug. 1, 2017) — In conflict scenarios like the one in Marawi City, the use of accurate data can tremendously aid various government agencies and the private sector in helping internally displaced people get back on their feet.
This is according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) head Mark Bidder during the Rappler Talk session on Monday, July 31, 2017.
Thousands of people have been displaced by the continuing armed conflict in Marawi City. On May 23, clashes between the military and local terrorist groups erupted and this crisis prompted the declaration of martial law by President Rodrigo Duterte in the entire Mindanao region.
Different government and non-government organizations have been sending relief to affected families who have been living in evacuation centers for two months now.
As of July 31, there are 78,466 displaced families, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Responding to their needs, the agency distributed cash assistance of P5,000 to displaced families in early July.
“For us, information management is one of the key pillars of effective coordination of humanitarian assistance and response so we focus very much on data – on accurate data, to help out partners and responders exactly understand what the needs of affected people are,” Bidder said.
The UN OCHA, together with the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR), launched an interactive online map to provide a bigger picture of the displacement incidents in Mindanao from January 2012 to June 2017.
“This is an online platform that we have developed in conjunction with our colleagues in UNHCR to protect our cluster in Mindanao and for a number of years through that cluster grouping, they have been tracking displacement. Displacement as a result of natural disasters, floods and typhoons, and as a result of conflicts,” he added.
According to Bidder, this online platform is used to help local government units, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector know what the population needs and how to help them.
The data comes from government sources and their partners on the ground. The information goes through a process of validation, cross referencing, and double-checking before it is published in the database.
‘Not just physical rebuilding’
“We see it as not just physical rebuilding but [also] is about rebuilding the social fabric of society – rebuilding trust of people in government services. It’s gonna be a long-term effort and investment,” said Bidder.
He added the tools they introduced and the data they have can help analyze the dimensions of the present humanitarian crisis and therefore, can provide better response.
“The better we understand that level of detail, the more efficient and effective the response can be,” he added.
Some of the prevailing concerns in the region are overcrowding, sanitary and health conditions, and the quality of water in evacuation centers. According to Bidder, LGU officials also have a big responsibility in involving the communities in establishing data.
“The more information we have collectively, the more data that is available, the better.”
Marawi displacement is unique
In most cases, displaced families stay in evacuation centers. But according to Bidder, one characteristic that makes the displacement in Marawi unique, is how victims are often home-based. Majority of the victims stay with their friends and families.
He said that this is a positive thing, considering the state of evacuation centers. However, it can cause burden to the hosting families.
“Marawi is a tragedy. It’s unique in many ways in terms of the number of people impacted by this fighting. It’s also unique in terms of how long is going on. I don’t think anyone expected people to be displaced for this long and that has it’s impact and humanitarian consequences.”
“And I think it also raises certain challenges when it comes to recovery effort. We are collectively thinking now what comes next in rebuilding Marawi.”