Philippines: Educating children in conflict-torn Mindanao

By Pierre Prakash, Information Officer, EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO)

Liling’s eyes moisten as she recalls the day she had to flee her remote village in the southern Philippines, after her small community received threats from an armed group operating in the area. “We had to leave so quickly, we didn’t have time to take our things, not even enough food," recounts the mother of three. "We were so scared to come across armed men that we didn’t take the main path, we tried to cut through the jungle. It was a very hard walk, and rain was pouring so hard, we wrapped the small children in plastic bags so they wouldn’t get sick. It took us the full day to reach the nearest town, but the elderly and some sick people couldn’t keep up, so they ended up sleeping on the side of the path, in the rain. Everyone fell sick, it was a horrible experience.”


Children in the most remote southern parts of the Philippines are able to access education thanks to funding from the EU. Displacement poses a different challenge to education as children are forced to abandon their studies. © EU/ECHO/Pierre Prakash

A member the Banwaon ethnic group, Liling belongs to what is known in the Philippines as a “Lumad”, or indigenous community, settled in the remote hills of Mindanao, the southernmost region of the country. The area has been bloodied by conflict for decades, with multiple armed and paramilitary groups operating in the area - some politically motivated, others working for larger interests such as mining companies – along with a large army presence. More often than not, the fighting results in displacement of civilians: in the last four years alone, close to half a million people have been displaced across the region.  Liling’s community had to wait 14 months before it was safe enough to head back to the village. During that period, they stayed in an abandoned hospital, with dire sanitary conditions and very little food on which to survive. Five children died, and many fell ill.

When asked why communities choose to stay in such an isolated place despite the hardships and the ongoing conflict, the village chief Dongkoi explains, "life here is hard, but it is our land, and that is all that we possess." Home to some 20 families, the village of Kihinggay is a day’s walk from the nearest market, and devoid of any government services. Surrounding villages, all from the same ethnic group, face the same fate. This means the entire community’s children do not have access to the formal education system, but thanks to a partnership with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the European Commission is funding a local NGO which brings informal schooling to primary school-aged children.

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Region/Country: Asia/Philippines


IOM established its office in the Philippines in 1975. In 1988, the Philippines became an IOM Member State – among the first Member States in Asia, with Manila as one of the first regional IOM offices in late 1996. In 2003, the Global Administrative Centre was established in Manila (now known as the Manila Administrative Centre or MAC), and provides global support in the areas of finance, human resources management, information technology, staff security, project tracking, and health claims processing, among others.  

IOM is a member of the UN Country Team/Humanitarian Country Team (UN CT/HCT) and is the co-lead agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) Cluster for internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Programmes and Projects

  • Canadian Orientation Abroad
  • Manila Health Center
  • Migrants Assistance and Protection Programmes
  • Labour Migration and Migration and Development
  • Emergency Response and Preparedness


Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA)

The Canadian Orientation Abroad (COA) project is a pre-departure orientation initiative funded by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) and implemented by the IOM. Since its inception in 1998, COA has served over 200,000 refugees and immigrants bound for Canada.

COA operates 20 permanent training sites abroad, including nine Regional Sites providing mobile sessions in their respective region. COA serves refugees, Economic Immigrants, Family Class immigrants, and Caregivers.

IOM provides migrant training support to over 40,000 migrants every year, for various receiving countries, including, Canada, Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, and many others.


  • Provide migrants of all categories, including Live-in Caregivers, with accurate information about life in Canada
  • Help migrants develop realistic expectations regarding their settlement in Canada
  • Increase and develop migrants’ awareness and skills necessary to successfully adapt to their new life, especially during their first six months of stay in Canada
  • Increase migrants’ capacity to integrate into the Canadian labour market
  • Address any questions and concerns that the migrants may have regarding their move to Canada


  • Two-day orientation for immigrants
  • Three-day orientation for refugees
  • Mobile sessions in refugee camps
  • Support services available
  • 14,040 clients served worldwide in FY 2015-16
  • 202,511 clients served worldwide 1998-2016
  • 67 training locations in 40 countries
  • 21 satellite sites, 26 mobile training missions, 20 permanent COA sites abroad
  • USD 354 per capita in FY 2015-16
  • 94 percent of cases referred are trained


  • Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC)


  • Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan)
  • Canadian Immigrant Integration Program (CIIP)

Visit the Canadian Orientation Abroad website for more information.

Manila Health Center

The Migration Health Assessment Programme is a migration support service by IOM that provides health assessments, monitoring and treatment for people who will migrate from one country to another for various reasons –

including permanent and temporary migrants, resettling refugees, and displaced persons – either before departure or upon arrival. By providing pre-departure health assessment of the health status of the applicants including tuberculosis (TB) detection, physical and mental health examination and evaluation, and HIV/AIDS education and counselling, this programme seeks to reduce and manage the potential public health impact on migrants themselves, their communities of origin, as well as the destination countries. The programme also supports the migrants’ specific health needs, in order to facilitate their integration into the host communities and countries.

IOM has provided health assessment support to migrants worldwide in coordination with respective country governments. In particular, IOM has established permanent medical and diagnostic facilities, many of which have laboratory and radiology, in various countries including Bangladesh, Kenya, Nepal, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. From 2001 to 2012, the number of health assessments that IOM provided for both refugees and immigrants nearly tripled, reaching over 250,000 people in 2012 covering over 60 countries. With the objective “to ensure that migration does not endanger the health of the migrant or pose a public health risk during travel or upon arrival at the final destination,” IOM continues to support safe, orderly and healthy migration.

MHC in the Philippines

The Philippines is one of the largest migrant sending countries in the world. With over one million Filipinos leaving the country each year to migrate overseas, it is important to identify and address conditions that are of concern to public health in order to mitigate the adverse impact of the migrants’ suspected illnesses. Health assessments also help migrants to integrate better into their destination countries, by reducing the possibility of being excluded by their would-be communities due to certain health conditions. Based on the request of the United Kingdom and Canada, IOM established the Manila Health Centre (MHC) in February 2013. MHC has so far processed approximately 40,000 applicants who have migrated to the United Kingdom or Canada. Depending on the situation, the type of migrant and country-specific guidelines, MHC offers a variety of services including:

  • Review of medical history including immunization
  • Detailed physical examination and mental health evaluation
  • Health promotion, education, and awareness raising for migrants
  • HIV/AIDS health education and counselling, including testing
  • Clinical and laboratory investigations
  • Tuberculosis (TB) detection programme
  • Referral or consultation with a specialist
  • Anti-fraud measures, including services such as DNA sample collection and other bio-samplings

Through MHC, IOM works in partnership with the national health systems of the Philippines in building the migration health management capacity. IOM Philippines works in close collaboration with the Department of Health (DOH) in policy development, capacity building, and research and advocacy on the health of migrants.

Migrants Assistance and Protection Programmes

In partnership with IOM Member States, other intergovernmental organizations and civil society organizations, IOM Philippines aims to support the prevention, protection and partners’ capacity development in addressing the right to protection and life-saving assistance for survivors of trafficking in persons, people smuggling, and related gender-based violence and exploitation of vulnerable women and men (regardless of age, nationality, orientation etc.) through targeted activities including direct assistance for return and reintegration, and family reunification.

Key Results

  • Over 1.5 million people reached by #KeepThemSafe /1343 helpline /Deeper Scars local campaigns
  • Over 245,000 individuals made aware of trafficking in persons and gender-based violence in emergency contexts
  • About 4,133 people provided with direct assistance including psychosocial support in emergency and post-emergency contexts
  • Almost 4,564 trained community leaders and advocates
  • Cross-border assistance: around 500 trafficking victims assisted, over 5,000 repatriation cases, almost 200 individuals benefitted by Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration (AVRR); and 326 families provided with Family Reunification services to the US

Programme Areas

MAP is focused on three areas of work:

  • Cross-border assistance for Victims of Trafficking (VOTs), family reunification services for VOTs in the US, exploited and vulnerable migrants in foreign territories, refugees and stranded migrants
  • Protection mainstreaming and counter-trafficking in post-conflict and post-disaster areas
  • Practical protection for individuals (children, adults, families) through direct assistance for medical, psychosocial and legal needs, return and reintegration support including training, in-kind grants and field monitoring

IOM is a member of the following government-led mechanisms:

  • Protection Cluster including Gender-Based Violence – Area of Responsibility (GBV-AoR) and Child Protection Working Group
  • Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking’s Advocacy and Communications Committee (IACAT- AdvoCom)
  • Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Council Against Trafficking (ACAT)

IOM is on a number of inter-agency platforms in various capacities such as:

  • Chair of the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA)
  • Convenor for the UN Mindanao Working Group for the Zamboanga Hub
  • Member of the Technical Working Group (TWG) of the UN Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting Mechanisms (CTFMR) on Grave Child Rights Violations (GCRVs) in situations of armed conflict.


  • US Department of State - Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (JTIP)
  • US Department of State - Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)
  • United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Various Member States

Labour Migration and Migration and Development

The Philippines has persisted as a major migrant-sending country through the last four decades, pioneering in many aspects of migration management which has become a model to many other countries. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are in more than 200 destinations in different occupations and work settings, with its annual deployment peaking at 1.8 million, along with remittances at over USD 26 billion in 2014. With its prominent stature in the global migration community, the Philippines has benefited from, as well as contributed to IOM’s projects and services on labour migration as well as migration and development.

Strategic Services and Partnership Interventions

IOM has served the Philippines in the fields of labour migration / migration and development in various developmental and direct service modes, in consonance with its needs and its role in the region and the global community. Following broad-base and cross-cutting development frameworks, IOM and the Philippines have been working collaboratively in strategic programme areas. In the recent years, the relevant projects have involved:

  • Migration policy, legislation, research and knowledge management (e.g., Country Migration Report: The Philippines 2013; mainstreaming migration in development planning, knowledge exchange and study tours, etc.)
  • National-local governance collaboration (e.g., Migration and Development institutional structures, local legislation, Migration Resource Centers, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao orientation, etc.)
  • Migrant worker orientation (e.g., pre-employment, pre-departure, return migration, campaign against illegal recruitment, trafficking and irregular migration)
  • Reintegration programme (e.g., capacity building on financial literacy, employment livelihood and entrepreneurship, etc.)
  • Migration crisis management (e.g., crisis management manual, e-learning device, etc.)
  • Ethical recruitment advocacy (e.g., International Recruitment Integrity System, organization of the Alliance of Asian Associations of Overseas Employment Service Providers, Recruitment Industry forum, etc.)
  • Thematic expert and technical support to the Philippine role and commitments in Regional Consultative Processes and other multilateral programmes (e.g., Colombo Process, Abu Dhabi Dialogue, Global Forum on Migration and Development, Association of South East Asian Nations, Asia-EU Dialogue on migration, High-level Dialogue on Migration, Migrants in Countries in Crisis, Joint Migration and Development Initiative, etc.)
  • Mass media handling of migration information

Strategic Outcomes

IOM interventions have significantly benefited various sectors (i.e., national and local governments, migrants and their families, civil society organizations, migrant policy, research and academic community, recruitment industry, other private sector organizations and the media, among others) and contributed to the following outcomes for the Philippines:

  • Sharpening of the migration and development lens in migration governance
  • Establishment of the platform for feasible local government roles in migration management
  • Improvement of inter-sector partnerships and programme collaboration among migration stakeholders
  • Optimization of the Philippines’ consistent potentials for continuous pioneering innovations benefiting its regional counterparts
  • Identification of benchmarks and indicators in the production of tools, facilities and programme monitoring systems

The Labour Migration and Migration and Development Unit (LMMDU) of IOM Philippines undertakes upstream interventions, institutional capacity-building and empowerment programmes in overall migration governance.


  • European Union (EU)
  • IOM Development Fund (IDF)
  • Swiss Development Cooperation - Comprehensive Information and Orientation Programme for Migrant Workers (SDC-CIOP)


  • Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE)
  • Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)
  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  • Overseas Workers Welfare Administration - National Reintegration Center for OFWs (OWWA-NRCO)

Emergency Response and Preparedness

Ranked as the second most disaster-prone country in the world, the Philippines is exposed to a variety of natural hazards including floods, typhoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. The effect of climate change is further increasing the frequency of intense hydro-meteorological events including super typhoons, thus adding to the country’s vulnerability to natural disasters.

IOM Philippines provides humanitarian assistance to populations affected by man-made and natural disasters, through Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM) support, including the roll-out of IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), and distributing emergency and recovery shelter materials and non-food items (NFIs) to the most vulnerable individuals. IOM works very closely with the Government of the Philippines to build transitional shelters for families whose houses were completely destroyed and to mainstream protection in terms of sexual gender-based violence and counter-trafficking.

In the Philippines, together with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), IOM is the Cluster Co-lead for the CCCM Cluster. IOM is committed to assist the Government in times of emergency, to manage displacement and coordinate the provision of basic humanitarian services in evacuation centres and other displacement sites and to develop the CCCM capacity of local authorities and vulnerable communities prior to disasters. Throughout the recent human-made and natural disaster responses, IOM has been one of the first humanitarian agencies on the ground, implementing the following programmes:

  • Camp Coordination and Camp Management: Rolling out of DTM, supporting displacement sites and capacity building training for camp managers.
  • Emergency and Recovery Shelter Assistance: Providing shelter materials and building transitional and permanent shelters.
  • Health: Providing medical consultations, medical referrals, psycho-social support and revitalizing health facilities.
  • Protection: Increasing awareness and mainstreaming counter-trafficking and sexual gender-based violence.
  • Communicating with Communities: Establishing accountability and two-way communication with the affected populations.

From 2013 to 2015, IOM responded to natural and human-made disasters including super typhoon Haiyan, the Bohol earthquake and armed conflicts in Mindanao. Throughout these responses, IOM has provided emergency shelter to nearly 100,000 families and temporary shelter solutions to about 63,000 families, and trained over 70,000 persons in safer construction techniques.

In terms of Disaster Risk Reduction Management (DRRM), IOM conducted trainings for national and local government partners to better understand future risks and how to plan mass evacuations with zero casualties. IOM is enhancing the evacuation systems and networks in regions affected by typhoons, through the construction of community buildings robust enough to provide a means of safe shelter in times of disaster, and a safe space for the community (especially children and teenagers) to gather and socialize in, during non-emergency periods. The first community evacuation centre was built in Guiuan in April 2015, and a second one is to be built in Borongan, Eastern Samar.


  • Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  • European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO)


  • Assistance and Cooperation for Community Resilience and Development (ACCORD)


Current Vacancies in IOM Philippines

Position Title Grade Closing Date
Financial Analyst General Service Staff/G-6 11 May 2017
Senior Java Developer General Service Staff / G-7 02 May 2017

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Last updated:
Main text: December 2016
Facts and figures: January 2016

Population (2015):100.7 million
Area:300,000 km sq
Languages:Pilipino, English
Currency:Philippine Peso (PHP)
GDP per Capita PPP (2014):USD 6,916
HDI Rank (2014):115 of 188
Remittances (2014 estimate):USD 28,403 million
Net Migration Rate (2015-2020):-1.1 migrants/1,000 population
Immigrants (2015):0.2%
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants (2015):48.2%
Population under 15 (2015):31.9%

International Organization for Migration (IOM)
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Country Office

Manila Administrative Centre