Timor-Leste: Funding urgently needed

Briefing Notes, 9 June 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 9 June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

We urgently need funding of some US$4.8 million for our operation to help tens of thousands of displaced people in Timor-Leste. So far funds have been slow in arriving, with only $286,000 from Australia, $185,000 from private donors in Australia, and 50,000 Euros from the Government of Germany. We hope with the launch of the UN Flash Appeal shortly that donors will give generously. UNHCR, as part of the joint UN effort, is involved in providing emergency shelter, basic items and protection for up to 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs).

The first wave of our emergency airlift to Timor-Leste finished earlier this morning (Friday), with the arrival in the capital Dili of the third Antonov-12 flight from Darwin. The Antonov was ferrying in supplies that had been flown to the northern Australian city earlier in the week from our regional stockpiles in Jordan on two Boeing-747 UNHCR charter flights. Some 56 tonnes of tents, blankets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans are now on the ground in Dili. A barge is scheduled to leave Darwin on Sunday morning, arriving in Dili on Monday, with the remainder of the supplies from the airlift. At that stage, we will have supplies for over 17,000 displaced people in Dili. In total, we plan to send 400 tonnes of supplies in phases.

Security is still a major concern for the more than 65,000 or so displaced in Dili. We are now in the process of trying to ease congestion in the 40 or so makeshift encampments around Dili and improve living conditions. UNHCR site planners, programme, field and protection staff have been meeting with priests, IDP representatives, government and other humanitarian organisations to identify those sites most urgently in need. Work is already under way on two sites Don Bosco College and the airport clearing the ground to pitch tents to ease congestion. Today, 40 tents were delivered to the National Hospital to accommodate hospital staff whose houses have been destroyed. UNHCR is also liaising with the government to consider the feasibility of additional planned camps.

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Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.5: The Emergency Operation Reaches Out

In mid-June UNHCR extended its emergency relief operation in Timor-Leste to include tens of thousands of people who fled violence in the capital Dili for districts in the countryside. An estimated 79,000 displaced people are in outlying districts with some 72,000 displaced in Dili.

The UN refugee agency has delivered shelter materials and emergency supplies to easterners and westerners in Hera village, 25 kilometres to the east of Dili. Most of the inhabitants of Hera are westerners and have fled their homes and taken to the hills. A smaller group of easterners have moved to the safety of a fenced naval compound, where they have been joined by easterners who fled Dili. UNHCR has also delivered shelter materials to Metinaro, 40 minutes outside of Dili, as well as to Auturo Island.

Despite sporadic violence, UNHCR continues to help the displaced who say they are still too scared to return to their homes and will wait in temporary shelters until the crisis ends.

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.5: The Emergency Operation Reaches Out

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

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