Container ship sails into Dili harbour with 150 tonnes of emergency aid

News Stories, 12 June 2006

© UNHCR/N.Ng
UNHCR emergency supplies for tens of thousands of displaced people in Timor-Leste were being unloaded from the CEC Venture at the port in Dili on Monday, June 12, 2006.

DILI, Timor-Leste, June 12 (UNHCR) A container ship carrying 150 tonnes of UNHCR emergency relief aid, including lightweight tents, blankets, kitchen sets, jerry cans and plastic sheets, sailed into Dili harbour as the sun set on Monday.

The arrival of the shipment from Darwin in Australia completes the first phase of UNHCR's aid delivery to Dili, following the onset of unrest in late April that caused tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in the capital of Timor-Leste. Last week, some 56 tonnes of aid were ferried to Dili, most from Darwin where the bulk of the aid had been flown from UNHCR's regional stockpile in Jordan aboard two Boeing 747s.

The UN refugee agency is using the supplies to improve conditions in some of the most crowded camps for the displaced that have sprung up in Dili and surrounding districts.

There is now enough aid on the ground for more than 17,000 people, and more deliveries are planned. Monday's aid shipment brought the total amount of supplies to 3,620 tents, 17,750 blankets, 3,520 kitchen sets, 3,610 jerry cans and 3,650 plastic sheets. UNHCR urgently needs US$4.8 million in emergency funding from donors for its Timor-Leste operation.

UNHCR's emergency response team leader, Johann Siffointe, said latest estimates put the number of displaced at about 67,000 people in the capital and more than 60,000 in the surrounding districts. "We are moving full steam ahead to distribute supplies to those most in need," he added.

Some of the tents that arrived last week will soon be used to ease congestion in crowded sites. "More than 110 tents are already up at the airport site organised in communities of 16 tents," Siffointe said.

"More tents will be pitched tomorrow and additional land has been cleared today. The site is expected to host 200 tents, providing shelter for up to 2,000 people," he said, adding that the first families could probably move into the lightweight family tents on Tuesday.

Planning for the provision of lighting, latrines and water points is well under way and UNHCR has been working with camp representatives and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to identify the most vulnerable people. Australian troops called in to help restore order are providing security at the airport, including the displaced persons camp.

Meanwhile, UNHCR on Monday pitched a first 20 of its durable and waterproof tents at Dili Stadium, after being asked by the government to build a camp at the facility to help ease congestion elsewhere. People will be able to move there on a voluntary basis once security is established and essential services like water and sanitation are in place.

Elsewhere in Dili, some 72 tents have been delivered to Don Bosco College, while more than 100 tents have been sent to the National Hospital. These will be used by vulnerable people, including pregnant women, and hospital staff whose houses were destroyed in the violence and arson attacks.

NGOs are being taught how to put up the tents and provided with examples of site plans. UNHCR plans to send some 100 tents, 500 blankets and 100 plastic sheets to Atauro Island, just off Dili, as part of an inter-agency aid consignment on Wednesday.

UNHCR has also been conducting assessments outside the capital. So far, the agency has visited the Liquicia, Ermera and Aileu districts to the west of the capital where some 17,000 people have fled. Many are staying with relatives, while some are sheltering in huts and others in church buildings or village offices.

UNHCR is liaising with local organisations to identify urgent needs, which so far include shelter (such as tents and plastic sheeting), cooking utensils and jerry cans as well as food and water. Distribution of emergency supplies in the districts outside Dili will begin in the coming days.

To the east, more than 15,000 people are reported to be displaced in the Bacau district and either living with relatives or sheltering in schools, village offices and hospital staff dormitories. UNHCR is identifying their most urgent needs.

By Ariane Rummery in Dili, Timor-Leste

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Emergency Response

UNHCR is committed to increasing its ability to respond to complex emergency situations.

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

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina JoliePlay video

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie has seen UNHCRs Emergency Response Team in action, providing life-saving shelter and relief items to refugees within 72 hours of a crisis hitting.