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Floods add to plight in Zamboanga

October 11, 2013

This story was published in 2013 when we were known as CFCA. In January 2014, we changed our name to Unbound. Check this section of our website often for stories about the families we serve around the world and the news that impacts them.

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Floods caused by five straight days of heavy rains forced evacuations in CFCA communities in the southern Philippines city of Zamboanga, where a standoff between rebels and government forces had already displaced more than 100,000 people.

At least 87 sponsored children and elderly people, nine scholarship students and three staff members from 14 communities were affected by floods after Typhoon Quedan soaked the area, said Rhodora Partosa, CFCA-Zamboanga coordinator.

CFCA families take shelter in evacuation centers.
Families served by CFCA take shelter in evacuation centers.

Some of the families were evacuated to temporary shelters set up in schools. The number affected in the CFCA community may be greater since staff members could not reach some flooded areas.

While typhoons are common in other parts of the Philippines, they are more unusual in Zamboanga, Partosa said.

"I am thinking that we (Zamboangeños) are still in a state of shock from the three-week standoff, and still could hardly cope with it witnessing the effects it brought to the people," she said. "And now another trial — heavy rains and flooding."

More than 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes last month when hundreds of armed fighters from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) entered Zamboanga and clashed with government forces.

Muslim rebels have been fighting since the 1970s for an autonomous homeland in the southern Philippines.

About 70,000 people displaced by the conflict remain at the city’s main evacuation center, an outdoor sports complex where strong rains and winds added to miseries such as a shortage of toilets and medicines.

CFCA has been providing emergency food and shelter to evacuees, and will assist families in the recovery process.

Displaced residents have not been allowed to return to their communities as sporadic fighting has continued. More than 10,000 homes were burned in the conflict, according to news reports.

Curfews are still in place, and many businesses are closing early so their employees can get home by dark, Partosa said.

Filipino forces outside a Zambaonga high school.
Government forces line up outside a Zamboanga high school amid
conflicts with a rebel group.

Still, members of the CFCA-Zamboanga community remain resilient and hopeful, she said. Students, for example, are talking about their exams since most classes have resumed.

"They have not given up," she said. "They are going on with their dreams of still finishing their education … they have it in their hearts and minds to continue."

Something that has helped sustain members of the CFCA-Zamboanga community is the knowledge that sponsors are thinking about them and praying for them, Partosa said.

"We know that we are not alone in these difficult times," she said.

The CFCA-Zamboanga community includes families from Christian, Muslim and indigenous traditions, and offers an example of people of diverse faiths living in peace.

"We can still continue the environment of living together with our diverse faiths," Partosa said, "showing that we can live as one community in unity."

CFCA communications liaison Tristan John Cabrera in the Philippines contributed information for this story.

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