23 September 1999
Text: UNICEF Aid to East Timor
(U.N. children's agency mounts aid effort for displaced) (780)
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is working to re-establish
its presence in East Timor after being driven from the region by
violence earlier this month.
The international relief agency has amassed a cache of supplies in
West Timor to help more than 200,000 people estimated to be displaced
by the conflict. But in a September 22 news release, UNICEF reports
that a truck carrying supplies attempted to cross to Dili September 21
but was turned back by guerilla forces.
As an international force moves into position in East Timor, the
UNICEF report appeals for a need for greater security as a
prerequisite for relief efforts.
Following is the text of the UNICEF press release:
(What UNICEF Is Doing
Updated 22 September 1999
UNICEF was forced to evacuate East Timor on 5 September when violence
erupted following free elections there. After the evacuation, the
agency helped the people of East Timor -- children and women in
particular -- who fled from East to West Timor to escape the violence.
Humanitarian supplies were also air-lifted to thousands who sought
refuge in the hills of East Timor. Now, with the prospect of restored
peace in East Timor, UNICEF is re-establishing a presence there,
working with partners to bring urgently needed humanitarian aid to the
people of East Timor.
To meet emergency needs in the West Timor camps, UNICEF is providing:
-- 12.5 tons of nutritional supplements, enough for 25,000 children
for 7-10 days 10,000 thousand blankets for UN airdrops over East Timor
-- 20,000 jerry cans and water jugs
-- 500 tents for temporary medical and educational centers
-- 5,000 mosquito nets, 40,000 sarongs, and sleeping mats
-- 200 sets of play items for "child-friendly spaces"
-- Educational supplies to equip dozens of temporary schools
-- Drugs and medical supplies to help meet the needs of women and
-- Water purification tablets
How many people of East Timor were displaced?
The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in West Timor as of
September 22 totaled more than 205,000, including more than 28,000
children under five (some 1,500 of them under two) and an estimated
5,700 pregnant women. UNICEF reports that all the camps in West Timor
are overcrowded, especially in Tuapukan, where most of the families
are sleeping under the trees while shelters are being raised by the
Public Works Department. No severe malnutrition is apparent among the
children, but some have no clothes. The total number of East Timorese
displaced since 5 September is estimated at 500,000.
Who are the displaced in West Timor and will they return to East
There are two main groups of displaced persons in West Timor, farmers
and service providers (75 per cent) and government officials, teachers
and business people. It is anticipated that 60 per cent of farmers
will return to East Timor once the situation there has improved. About
25 per cent of the second group are expected to return.
UNICEF offices now in operation
The UNICEF offices in Atambua and Kupang in West Timor are
distributing baby food and other vital supplies. A staging center for
humanitarian aid to the people of East Timor, located in Darwin,
Australia, is now in operation with four staff members in place and
additional staff on the way. Supplies are also in place, awaiting safe
transport to East Timor. The UNICEF office in Jakarta has been
reinforced and movement is currently underway to re-establish a UNICEF
presence in East Timor.
Latest movements in East Timor
A truck with 1.2 metric tons of baby food left Atambua for Dili on 21
September, with the village of Dare its final destination. The truck
cleared several military checkpoints but was turned back by militia
elements on the outskirts of Dili. The truck reportedly returned
safely to West Timor.
As a multi-national peacekeeping force moves into place in East Timor,
UNICEF is making every effort possible to assure safe transport of
urgently needed humanitarian health and nutritional supplies to the
people of East Timor. It is essential that security be established to
enable transport of vital humanitarian aid to proceed unimpeded.
In the East Timor capital of Dili, UNICEF office premises were found
to be looted and burned. UNICEF has found temporary quarters and is
moving rapidly to secure office and storage facilities and prepare for
the secure transportation of needed humanitarian supplies when they
arrive safely in Dili. No threat from unexploded ordnance or landmines
has been reported, but military advice to humanitarian agencies is to
await clearance before proceeding to the field.
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