Aid is coming to Marawi from the United States government, through the USAID agency, in the amount of USD 14.3 million (Php730 million), US Ambassador Sung Kim has announced.

The funds will provide, among other things, safe water and hygiene kits to residents of Marawi whose lives have been disrupted by war between government forces and the ISIS-backed Maute group.

"The United States is deeply committed to this relationship and remains ready to support our friend and ally as we face challenges and opportunities," the American envoy  was quoted as saying.

He pointed out that the Marawi crisis was the most urgent challenge being faced by Manila and Washington. The siege in the Mindanao city has gone on for months, displacing thousands of residents, and leaving hundreds of casualties including soldiers. Those who have been driven from their homes due to the airstrikes are living in cramped evacuation centers, or with relatives in distant towns or provinces.

Military officials are hoping the war will be ending by October. Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen Eduardo Ano will be retiring by then.

The relief assistance from USAID, processed through the Office of US Foreign Disaster Assistance, will focus on the return of basic public services, particularly healthcare, water and electricity, and will further be utilized to rebuild livelihoods and for community reconciliation.

Of the Php730 million, Php153 million has been earmarked for critical relief supplies such as safe drinking water, hygiene kits and shelter materials for evacuation centers - most of which are in short supply, and to support programmes protecting women and children.

Meanwhile, Php577 million has been allotted for the rehabilitation and stabilization of the city, after many of its buildings and structures were damaged or totally destroyed in the fighting.

In addition, USAID will provide 12,000 water containers and 100,000 chlorine tablets so families will have safe drinking water and 6,500 desks for temporary schools. At the same time, the US agency will also provide psycho-social support for affected teachers and students.

The USAID has allotted Php22 million for education and informational programmes for women and students in exploring ways to address challenges in Marawi. Ambassador Sung Kim expressed his country's hope for the crisis to end soon. "We all look forward to the end of the fighting and suffering," he said, adding, "We will continue to support the Philippine government's efforts to deal with the crisis." MIMS

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