Timor-bound supplies land in Darwin, Dili displaced still gripped by fear

News Stories, 7 June 2006

© UNHCR/M.Napper
UNHCR emergency relief supplies are unloaded from a Boeing-747 at Darwin in northern Australia, Wednesday. The aid will be ferried by aircraft and boat to Timor-Leste to help displaced people in and around strife-hit Dili.

DILI, Timor-Leste, June 7 (UNHCR) A Boeing 747 bearing fresh UNHCR aid for victims of the recent unrest in Timor-Leste landed in the northern Australian city of Darwin on Wednesday morning. In Dili, many of the tens of thousands who fled fighting, arson and looting in the capital are too scared and traumatised to return home.

A second jumbo jet, also carrying about 115 tonnes of emergency relief supplies, is expected to arrive in Darwin on Thursday. A first UNHCR aid flight landed in Dili on Monday. The latest aid will be ferried from Darwin to Dili by air and by sea. An Antonov-12 is scheduled to make two flights on Thursday and one more on Friday, providing enough immediate aid for 5,000 people. The remaining supplies are expected to arrive in Dili by sea early next week.

About 13,000 displaced persons in need of this aid are housed at the Don Bosco College in Dili's Comoro district, and many do not dare return home despite the arrival of Australian, Malaysian and other foreign troops to restore and maintain peace.

Take Luizinha Pereira Carvalha. Her house near Dili airport was vandalised just over a week ago and she is too scared to return even in daylight hours when many of Dili's displaced have begun to visit their homes or move about the city.

Carvalha spends her days caring for her four children, finding firewood and washing clothes. The Carvalhas are one of 98 families living in a shaded and airy gym on the college grounds, but there is no privacy and people use string to demarcate their own space. About 30 children crowd around Luizinha Carvalha's space, watching the television she salvaged before fleeing her home.

Carvalha said she would only go back when she feels there is adequate security in place, and she believed this was only possible with the help of foreign troops and following a political solution. "Our leaders in government need to go hand-in-hand to settle this problem, so we can return to our homes," she said.

Father Thomas Alves, a priest at the college, said people were still afraid and confused despite the presence of the international military force. "People have been here now for more than one month, but few leaders have come to see their suffering," he said. "Even with a peace-keeping force on the ground, there is no guarantee of security.... We don't know when people can go home."

An estimated 100,000 people are displaced in Timor-Leste. About 65,000 are living in some 40 encampments in Dili, while a further 35,000 have fled to the countryside. Don Bosco College has become Dili's largest site for the displaced.

The college's headmaster, Brother Adriano M. de Jesus, said 1,847 families comprising more than 13,200 people had been registered at the site since April 28. He said that while people generally felt safe, the arrival of 30 Malaysian troops to guard Don Bosco College on Tuesday was welcomed.

The Don Bosco College authorities have established seven voluntary groups among the residents to carry out registration and food distribution. Another group of 150 people, representatives of villages and family groups, deal with security issues and help prevent conflict within the camp.

Modesto da Costa, 25, said about half of those in the camp came from the west of the country and half from the east. Tension between people of the two regions is largely blamed for the violence that first erupted in late April. But da Costa said the volunteers did not discriminate, adding: "Here we all work together and we help everyone."

© UNHCR/M.Napper
Around 115 tonnes of UNHCR emergency relief supplies including tents, plastic sheeting and jerry cans, about to be unloaded from a UNHCR-chartered cargo plane in the northern Australian city of Darwin on Wednesday. The aid will be ferried by aircraft and boat to Timor-Leste.

Father Adriano and his colleagues have also established programmes and services to ease life for their charges, including a medical clinic, cash-for-work programmes and a school. A soccer competition is planned to coincide with this month's World Cup.

But the camp is overcrowded and there are concerns about water, sanitation and fuel for cooking. UNHCR site planners and protection staff visited Don Bosco on Wednesday to see how the refugee agency can help alleviate the problems. They are considering the feasibility of setting up additional shelters within the college grounds to ease congestion.

By Ariane Rummery in Dili, Timor-Leste

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Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps

With the first wave of UNHCR's air and sea operation to rush relief supplies to Timor-Leste completed, the focus is now on improving the living conditions of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) living in crowded, unsanitary makeshift camps around Dili.

Many of the 69,000 displaced in Dili have told UNHCR they prefer to stay near the makeshift sites where they feel safe. In response, UNHCR has begun searching for additional sites around these areas to clear ground, pitch tents and decongest the existing makeshift shelters. Not all makeshift sites are suitable for expansion, so UNHCR is moving ahead with the establishment and planning of new sites.

UNHCR has sent an assessment team to the countryside where some 78,000 Timorese have sought refuge. Many displaced are staying with relatives, while others are sheltering in huts, offices, church building and spontaneous camp sites. We are now delivering assistance to some of these people.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.4: UNHCR Sets Up Camps

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.3: UNHCR's Air and Sea Relief Delivery Operation

Rushing emergency relief supplies to tens of thousands of displaced people in the strife-hit Timor-Leste has been a top priority for the UN refugee agency.

On Monday, the first phase of the air and sea operation ferrying in 200 metric tonnes of tents, blankets, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets, was completed.

Last week four Antonov-12 flights flew in 56 tonnes of supplies, and on Monday 12 June, a freighter crossed the Timor Sea from Darwin, loaded with 150 tonnes of supplies, flown in earlier from UNHCR's regional Middle East stockpiles in Jordan to the northern Australian city. There are now shelter supplies on the ground for some 17,000 people.

Working closely with partners on the ground, UNHCR's emergency team is already improving living conditions at the crowded, unsanitary makeshift camps around the capital Dili, and starting to establish planned camps.

Security is still a major concern for the displaced, traumatised by the house burning, looting and violence. UNHCR urgently needs US$4.8 million for its Timor-Leste emergency operation.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.3: UNHCR's Air and Sea Relief Delivery Operation

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

June 2006

Recent violence in Timor-Leste has displaced about 100,000 people, with 65,000 sheltering in 40 squalid encampments in the capital, Dili, and a further 35,000 taking refuge in the countryside. A UNHCR assessment team visited the makeshift camps in Dili end May and reported the most critical humanitarian needs, aside from security, were food, clean water and shelter.

In a phased response to the crisis and as part of a joint UN effort, UNHCR deployed an emergency team to reinforce staff on the ground and is now airlifting in urgently needed supplies for some 30,000 displaced. The first flight, which arrived in Dili on June 5, brought 14 tonnes of lightweight family tents, plastic sheets and jerry cans from UNHCR stockpiles in Jordan.

UNHCR and its partners will use these items to establish new, planned camps for the displaced, where they can live in better conditions and assistance will be easier to deliver, until the security situation improves and they can return to their homes.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence