At least 123 people who fled to evacuation centres to escape Muslim rebel attacks in the southern Philippines have died due to various illnesses, the head of the civil defence said on Monday.
Civil defence director Armando Duque said in Manila that most of those who died were children and that pneumonia was one of the main causes of the fatalities, which have all occurred since the Muslim rebels launched their attacks in August.
In a roadside evacuation centre on the outskirts of the city of Cotabato, 1,257 families are still living in makeshift dwellings, said evacuee leader Hassan Kalupa, adding that 24 people, including six children had died there since August.
Kalupa diarrhoea was a big problem in the centre.
"The source of water is totally unacceptable. That's our problem here. Most of the kids died from severe diarrhoea," Kalupa said.
More than half a million people fled their homes in the south of Mindanao after troops from the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) launched attacks on civilian communities in August.
The attacks were spurred by the Supreme Court's suspension of an accord that would have created a large Muslim autonomous area under MILF control in the south of this largely-Christian nation.
At the height of the conflict, about 125,000 people were taking shelter in evacuation centres.
In recent months however, the government has said that the situation has become less dangerous and has urged people to return home.
However Duque said that in some cases, those who leave the evacuation centres return because they cannot make a living in their war-ravaged communities.