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UNHCR reaches out to help displaced people outside Dili

News Stories, 15 June 2006

© UNHCR/Ariane Rummery
A woman sits outside her makeshift shelter at Metinaro camp east of the Timor-Leste capital, Dili. UNHCR, which has begun helping some of the estimated 78,000 people dislaced outside Dili, delivered 200 tents to Metinaro.

METINARO, Timor-Leste, June 15 (UNHCR) UNHCR has stepped up its emergency relief operation in troubled Timor-Leste and started reaching out to people who fled the capital to escape violence sparked in late April.

The refugee agency has delivered 200 tents to families camping in makeshift shelters of palms, leaves and tarpaulins near a Timorese army base at Metinaro about 40 minutes drive east of Dili through the lush green countryside of Timor-Leste. About half have been pitched by the residents in three separate areas.

UNHCR's delivery of emergency aid to regional areas begins as official estimates indicate that there are more displaced people outside the capital 78,000 than those at camps inside Dili. Some 69,000 people are displaced in the capital.

A volunteer organiser at Metinaro camp said she had registered 356 families and was on Thursday preparing for the most vulnerable to move into the special lightweight shelters. The woman, who gave her name as Theresa, fled Dili when violence spread to her neighbourhood about three weeks ago.

"These people are originally from the east but they have lived in Dili for 10 years or more," Theresa explained. "They are from Baucau, Vikeke and Los Palos. But they don't have a house anymore in these places and so they have fled Dili to here." She added that they would return to Dili "when the situation is normal."

Most people fleeing looting and arson attacks are moving to places where they feel some connection, or where they feel safe. The Metinaro group left Dili when their houses were targeted by people originally from the west of the country. Unable to travel to their villages of origin in the east, they set up camp near an army base manned by soldiers from the east. The unrest was partly sparked by tension between rival armed groups from the east and west.

"We came here because it is near to the army base," said Santiago Ximenes, who arrived about one month ago and is helping to put up tents. "People stay because the army is here," he added.

Before receiving the UNHCR tents, the group at Metinaro had received some food assistance and mosquito netting. But there is still an urgent need for more food and more latrines.

As well as providing tents and non-food items like blankets, UNHCR is liaising with agencies that specialise in water and sanitation so that they can provide latrines at the camp.

The delivery of tents to Metinaro followed a rapid needs assessment launched last week by UNHCR staff in a number of districts outside the capital. Further distribution of tents, blankets, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets to other districts is expected to begin in the coming days.

By Ariane Rummery in Metinaro, Timor-Leste

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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