PHILIPPINES: Kamesa Usop, "We lost everything"
Kamesa would like to return to her home, but can't
Datu Piang, 19 October 2009 (IRIN) - When Kamesa Usop fled her home in August 2008, little did she know she would still be displaced 14 months later. Today, the 50-year-old is one of 1,500 residents of the Notre Dame Dulawan evacuation centre in Datu Piang, in conflict-affected Mindanao.
There are more than 250,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) on the island due to fighting between government forces and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), who have been fighting for an ancestral homeland for decades.
"It's been over a year and still we are here. In the past, we have been forced from our homes, but this time is different. When the fighting stopped before we would return, but not now.
"My home in Nimao [district] is only 6km from here but we can't go back. It's simply not safe.
"On top of that we have nothing to return to. We lost everything.
"Government troops burned our homes. They said MILF fighters were using our homes as shelters, but this wasn't true. We are simple people and didn't do anything wrong. We just got caught in the middle.
"Of course, I am angry, but I am powerless to do anything. Instead, I have no choice but to live here.
"Lately, there has been talk about peace negotiations, but at this point it's just talk. Things may be quieter now, but there is no real peace. That's why I have no desire to go back at this point.
"Conditions in the camp are tough. There are not enough toilets, the water is dirty and many people - including myself - routinely come down with diarrhoea.
"Everyone in the camp is dependent on outside assistance. But whatever we receive, particularly food, is simply not enough.
"In many ways, I'm luckier than most. My husband is a fisherman and earns another 1,000 pesos [US$21] a month to help out. Others are less fortunate. Most men in the camp don't work and there is no source of work. As a result, thing are getting worse for them. Many wonder if they return how they will rebuild, much less get by.
"Now I need help and they [the government] should help me. They should help all of us who have been displaced.
"I want to return to my home. But I'm going to need help. And I'm going to need help for a while."
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]