Timor-Leste: First phase of emergency relief operation completed

Briefing Notes, 13 June 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 June 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Yesterday, the first phase of UNHCR's emergency air and sea operation to rush relief supplies to Timor-Leste was completed with the arrival in the capital Dili of a container ship ferrying 150 tonnes of supplies across the Timor Sea from Darwin in northern Australia. Last week, four Antonov-12 flights delivered 56 tonnes of supplies. Monday's sea delivery of emergency supplies, including lightweight family tents, plastic sheets, blankets and kitchen sets, was the single largest shipment of relief supplies to the strife-hit island nation since the unrest started.

As part of the UN Flash Appeal announced yesterday in New York, UNHCR has asked for $4.8 million to fund its shelter-focused emergency response to the Timor-Leste crisis.

In total, UNHCR has so far sent over 200 tonnes of supplies for more than 17,000 people. Last week two jumbo B-747 flights delivered the bulk of the cargo from our regional Middle East stockpiles in Jordan to Darwin. The supplies were then transported in smaller planes to Dili and by freighter. The shelter supplies are being used to improve the living conditions of thousands of displaced people living in 55 crowded, unsanitary makeshift camps around Dili and in the districts.

Many of the 69,000 displaced people in Dili have told us they prefer to stay near the makeshift sites where they have found security and feel safe. Responding to this, UNHCR is trying to find additional space around these sites to clear ground, pitch tents and decongest the existing makeshift shelters. At the so-called Airport site, some 150 tents are already pitched and we are exploring the feasibility of clearing additional land. It is expected the area could shelter around 2,000 people. About 1,000 people are expected to move into tents at the site today. The most vulnerable are being moved first. Australian troops are providing security at the airport area, including the IDP [internally diplaced persons] camp, and will conduct regular patrols at night. Security is the main preoccupation of the displaced.

Not all makeshift sites are suitable for expansion, however, so we are also continuing to move ahead with the establishment and planning of new sites. On Yesterday (Monday), we started pitching tents to shelter over 1,000 people at the National Stadium where the government asked us to establish a camp. This work is expected to finish tomorrow (Wednesday).

The distribution of emergency supplies to various sites housing displaced people around Dili is already well under way and we are working closely with NGOs to reach as many people in need as possible. Tomorrow (Wednesday), as part of the joint UN/NGO response, we are sending relief items to Auturo Island, just offshore from Dili (100 tents, 500 blankets and 100 plastic sheets).

More than 63,000 people fleeing the looting, house burning and violence in Dili have sought refuge in the countryside. That figure is expected to rise as assessments are finalised in the remaining districts. So far nine of the 13 districts have been assessed. Many displaced are staying with relatives, while others are sheltering in huts, offices and church buildings. In some parts of the Bacau district, people have set up makeshift camps. We are liaising with the local authorities, local Red Cross and NGOs on emergency needs and distributions to the districts are expected to start shortly.

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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