EAST TIMOR CRISIS
29 September 1999 Dili, East Timor
Local officials report that as many as 70,000 persons may have entered Dili during the past two days and that 30,000 more displaced may arrive in the near future. The influx has been spontaneous and relatively orderly, with the majority of people returning directly to their homes. The condition of the returnees appears to be good although most people lost their assets during the crisis.
In a joint operation, WFP and ICRC will begin distribution of relief assistance shortly. Emergency food will be distributed through the local church network at five central parish locations and will be supported by non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The two agencies are preparing to distribute aid to 100,000 persons during a five day period. At a meeting today with CNRT leaders, the Humanitarian Coordinator requested that local officials make every effort to ensure that the most vulnerable people receive assistance.
As part of on-going efforts to reach at-risk populations in areas outside the capital, UN Agencies launched a road convoy today to Baucau and Los Palos. INTERFET is providing an escort for the 29 vehicle convoy which includes representatives from UN Agencies, NGOs and the media.
The convoy will overnight in Baucau before proceeding tomorrow morning to Los Palos. A tanker of diesel fuel will be delivered to Bishop Nasciemento in Baucau, enabling the church to conduct relief programmes. The Bishop agreed to provide approximately ten trucks for the humanitarian operation in Dili. Plastic sheeting, food, collapsible jerry-cans and health kits will be delivered to Los Palos which has suffered extensive damage.
Eight new international NGOs arrived in Dili today bringing the total number of NGOs currently present in the capital to twelve. The NGOs, many of which are staying temporarily in the United Nations Humanitarian Operations Centre (UNHOC), are planning to launch operations as soon as initial assessments are completed.
Access: In a major development, the INTERFET Commander, Major General Peter Cosgrove, announced today that two platoons from INTERFET will be available to support UN humanitarian operations. This will allow humanitarian agencies to access many populations in outlying towns and villages. On behalf of the UN Agencies, OCHA will collaborate with INTERFET on developing a schedule for future assessments and operations using military escorts.
Security: Reliable sources confirm that two towns along the western border, Bellabo and Bellagada, have been torched. Militia activity remains concentrated in the western sector and continues to be the most serious threat to security. For the third day, the CARE warehouse was looted. Small amounts of blankets and plastic sheeting in addition to 50 MTs of food were lost. INTERFET has confirmed that efforts will be made to provide additional security coverage. Some torching continues to occur in Dili although the number of incidents has declined significantly.
Internally Displaced Persons: In response to a request from INTERFET, UNHCR organised the voluntary transfer of more than 1,300 persons away from the port. The majority of displaced chose to return to their homes after being presented with several options including protected accommodation in the stadium.
Food: WFP's food-for-work programme is being rapidly expanded. Programmes for the clean-up of market places and other public areas will be launched shortly. Approximately 28 MTs of relief supplies were distributed today by World Vision including more than 15 MTs of food delivered to Motoharan. Several NGOs have indicated their strong interest in supporting this programme.
Water: The joint UNICEF and ICRC technical team finished chemical treatment of Dili's spring-water sources. The team is also continuing to assess the condition of hand-pumps which are the main source of water for the city's rapidly growing population. DFID reports that several water tankers will shortly arrive in Dili from Australia.
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