First UNHCR emergency aid flight arrives in Benin

Press Releases, 28 October 2010

The first flight in a UNHCR emergency airlift to Benin landed in Cotonou at 0520hrs local time this morning. The UNHCR-chartered McDonnell Douglas DC-10 took off from Liege in Belgium late yesterday evening (Wednesday, 27 October) carrying 1500 tents from the agency's emergency stockpile in Copenhagen. The tents will provide urgently needed shelter for victims of the country's catastrophic flooding.

A UNHCR emergency logistician, deployed to Benin on Monday, reported this morning that the three-engine cargo jet had been unloaded on the tarmac at Cotonou's Cadjehoun airport. The landing of a second flight carrying a further 1500 tents is scheduled for the early hours of Friday, 29 October.

UNHCR tents, which are part of the overall UN humanitarian response to floods in Benin, will be sent as soon as possible to those parts of Benin where waters are receding and where there are possibilities to erect them. Benin authorities and Caritas Benin are coordinating the distribution of shelter and humanitarian assistance to an estimated 680,000 people affected by the floods in this West African nation.

UNHCR's regular work in Benin is geared towards providing protection and assistance to some 7,300 mostly Togolese refugees and asylum-seekers. They are located in the south of the country and some of them have been affected by the floods. UNHCR is in contact with them to assess the extent to which they are affected and to ensure that these refugees are included in the national response mechanism.

Due to the severity of the current flooding UNHCR has been called upon to help with the emergency shelter needs of some of the homeless people, particularly in southern parts of the country where we have a presence. We have already been providing tents, mosquito nets and blankets from our limited stockpiles in the region.

"With more than 3,000 tents, some 15,000 people will get decent temporary shelter close to their flood-ravaged homes. This will allow them to start repairs while they wait for the national rehabilitation effort to start", says Angèle Dikongué-Atangana, UNHCR's Representative in Benin. "As a priority, the first to receive tents will be those who have been left homeless and who are presently squatting along the roads with no alternative accommodation. These people are particularly vulnerable and at risk."

UNHCR remains concerned about the rising number of people who are being affected by the floods. Seasonal heavy rains have been hitting West Africa for several months and normally last until November. This year's torrential rains go well beyond normal flooding for Benin. Fifty-five out of the country's 77 districts are affected. Weather forecasts show no signs of rain letting up yet.

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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

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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.

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

Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

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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.

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Emergency in Timor-Leste pt.1: Recent Violence

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