AMSA Philippines Policy Statement
Internally Displaced Persons
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes of places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border” .
As of February 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that at least 4.2 million Filipinos are considered IDPs. Over 130,000 of them are victims of armed conflict in Mindanao; and the remainder is those affected by supertyphoon Haiyan . These IDPs are based in evacuation centers, bunkhouses and other homes and have no certainty of their length of stay in temporary sites and of their return to original places . Some families have experienced repeated displacement as a result of both the armed conflict in Mindanao and aftermath of Haiyan . Indigenous groups such as the Mamanwas, Badjao and Tausug, are especially at risk of displacement and its consequences [3,4]. In February 2013, the Philippine Congress adopted House Bill 5627 which upholds the rights of internally displaced persons. However, President Aquino vetoed on the bill .
The health of the IDPs is vulnerable with their situations. Health stations and clusters are provided by the local and national government; however, are understaffed and cannot meet the increasing needs of IDPs. Overcrowding in the facilities resulted to poor health conditions . Deaths have been reported in evacuation centers, especially among children . Most importantly, the cause of their displacement itself, especially armed conflicts, affects their health.
Asian Medical Students’ Association Philippines (AMSA Philippines) recognizes the problems brought about by internal displacement and the importance of providing protection of the rights of IDPs.
AMSA Philippines believes that:
- All IDPs have the right to safe return to their original places, resettlement and reintegration in any place, where their safety, liberty and health will not be at risk;
- All IDPs should be treated with compassion, respect and dignity;
- Coordinated and effective action is required to promote the best possible health outcomes for IDPs.
AMSA Philippines calls upon:
1. Medical Students and Medical Professionals to:
- Strengthen our values and professional practice, including the human right to health, social responsibility, people-centeredness and social justice;
- Be conscious of the unique vulnerabilities and disadvantages experienced by IDPs that impact their physical and mental health and well-being
- Actively participate as medical volunteers in community-based activities, services and response efforts for internal displacement such as provision of care including psychosocial support, resource mobilization, and community rehabilitation;
- Pursue further adequate and culturally appropriate training and research if encountering or intending to encounter IDPs in medical practice;
- Actively advocate through initiatives that campaign for, and build awareness of IDP health issues;
2. Medical Schools to:
- Incorporate into medical curriculum topics on global health issues and social determinants that impact on the health of IDPs;
- Provide transformative medical education for students to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to work with IDPs in a culturally appropriate manner:
- Encourage medical students to initiate ethical research that investigates IDPs’ health issues and their determinants;
- Provide avenues for students to engage in a culturally safe manner with IDP patients with adequate support to protect the health and rights of patients;
3. Philippine Government to:
- Honor its obligations under the Declaration of Human Rights and recognize national and international human rights and humanitarian laws when making decisions and policies that impact on health of IDPs;
- Develop a national framework to create enabling conditions that address the root causes of internal displacement, to identify vulnerable communities at risk of, to prevent, and to respond to internal displacement
- Establish a system to address rapidly and effectively the health and medical needs, and prevent the health repercussions of displacement in accordance with the UN Guiding Principle on Internal Displacement;
- Set out a clear vision with short-, medium- and long-term goals, strategies and actions to eradicate heath inequities experienced by IDPs:
- Provide IDPs with equitable access to health care.
- UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. UN Guiding Principle on Internal Dispalcement. 2003.
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Philippines: Fact Sheet. March 2014.
- Jose, C. Badjao of Zamboanga: victims of war and relocation. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/nation/55885-badjao-zamboanga-war-relocation. April 2014.
- UN High Commisioner for Refugees. Minda Klinawan’s story, Philippines. 2014.
- Casauay, A. Kids die in Zamboanga evacuations camps; shelters needed. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com/nation/51019-zamboanga-city-evacuees-shelter-death. Feb 2014.
- UN High Commisioner for Refugees. Typhoon Haiyan aftermath highlights need for national IDP law. January 2014.