United Nations: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned that more than 120,000 people have been displaced in Mindanao island in southern Philippines since fighting broke out between government troops and armed groups in late January, a UN spokesperson said here Friday.
"UNHCR remains concerned about the safety of civilians as the conflict continues to spread into local villages," Xinhua quoted deputy UN spokesperson Farhan Haq as saying. "An estimated 13 municipalities in Maguindanao and North Cotabato have been affected so far. And many internally displaced people are sheltering in schools and public buildings."
UNHCR and other UN agencies are working closely with local authorities to monitor the situation, Haq said. "They have distributed blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, plastic sheets and other essential aid supplies to displaced families."
As a result of the armed clashes, a state of calamity has been reportedly declared in Maguindanao, a province located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) -- the country's second biggest and southernmost major island, which has been the scene of a Muslim separatist conflict over the past 40 years.
Mindanao is home to the biggest and most relevant Muslim minority in the archipelago, the indigenous Moro people. Created in 1989, the ARMM is composed of five predominantly Muslim provinces and is the only region that has its own government.