THE International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), alongside its various activities, helps preserves the dignity of the dead, especially among the Muslim community, amid brewing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In its summary report covering June 2020 to date entitled “Philippines – ICRC Operational Update,” the humanitarian agency through its Webinar online web is promoting “religious burials of Muslim individuals during COVID-19 times from the perspective of forensic science and Islam,” Allison Lopez of the ICRC communications group said.
The thrust, she said, is coordinated with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) and Institute of Islamic Studies of University of the Philippines.
In a recent joint convergence, Lopez said 65 participants, including health and other BARMM government officials, scholars, religious leaders and humanitarian workers, shared their insights and made recommendations to ensure the dignity of the dead and their families, in full respect of health guidance and religious rites.
Global health authorities normally prescribe for the cremation of the bodies of fatalities in the COVID-19 pandemic to see to it there would be no transmission from corpses. But representations from the Islamic community have caused exemption of Muslims in the global process, pointing out the essence of burial rites prescribed in Islam.
Since last June, the update report said, the ICRC has donated 300 body bags (140 Region 10 and 160 in Region 11) that were designed to ensure no leakage from buried Muslim bodies.
The ICRC also continued to support national authorities, health-care facilities, places of detention and the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same time, it resumed activities focusing on protection and assistance activities in the conflict-affected areas of the country that had been slowed down during the first few months of the outbreak, the report said.
“While closely following humanitarian concerns in detention facilities and the ICRC-supported COVID-19 isolation centers attached to them, we continued to provide technical and policy support to authorities at the national and sub-national level(s),” it added.
In Mindanao, the ICRC conducted field visits to conflict-affected areas to monitor respect for or proper observance of the international humanitarian law (IHL) by the parties to the armed conflicts and to assess humanitarian needs of affected populations, including children, families of the missing, those with conflict-related physical disabilities, and IDPs, the report added.
In Mindanao and in the National Capital Region, the ICRC provided material support, training and expert advice to support the work of the key health facilities, Red Cross and medico-legal departments.
The ICRC also engaged with weapon bearers, local authorities, religious and academic experts, media and civil society, to discuss its humanitarian activities and to increase the understanding and respect for IHL in the Philippines. Details about the report are provided in the agency’s website: http://www.icrc.org.
ALI G. MACABALANG