First flight of UNHCR airlift to Timor-Leste scheduled to leave late Friday
GENEVA, June 2 (UNHCR) - The first flight of UNHCR's emergency airlift to Timor-Leste is scheduled to depart Amman, Jordan late tonight, loaded with urgently needed shelter supplies and other basic items for tens of thousands of displaced people. An emergency team is deploying to Dili over the weekend to reinforce staff already on the ground.
The plane, carrying lightweight family tents, plastic sheets and jerry cans from UNHCR's regional stockpile in Jordan, is expected to arrive in the Timor-Leste capital of Dili on Sunday morning. Further flights are planned, probably using Darwin in Australia as a staging point. They will bring in more tents and plastic sheeting as well as blankets, mosquito nets and kitchen sets. Details are still being finalised.
"In a phased approach and in a joint effort with other United Nations agencies, international organizations and NGOs, UNHCR is sending shelter and non-food supplies for up to 30,000 people displaced by the violence and looting," UNHCR's chief spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists in Geneva on Friday.
An estimated 100,000 people are displaced in Timor-Leste. About 65,000 are living in some 30 squalid encampments in Dili itself, while a further 35,000 have fled to the countryside.
"In coordination with the government and other agencies, UNHCR is expected 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," Redmond said.
UNHCR is discussing security for the new camps with the authorities, as this will be an important factor in reassuring the displaced.
To boost the refugee agency's warehousing capacity for the coming airlift, three large portable warehouses are being transferred from its logistics warehouse in Medan, on the northern Indonesian island of Sumatra. The same flight from Medan will also bring in 1,400 stoves for the displaced.
"Our emergency team leaving this weekend will include camp planning specialists as well as logistics, administration, protection and community services personnel," Redmond said.
UNHCR has called on its operational reserves to initially fund the operation, which will cost an estimated US$3.7 million. But these funds will need to be replenished rapidly.
This week in Timor-Leste, UNHCR brought in staff from Indonesia to increase its previously limited presence and lay the groundwork for the operation to help the thousands of displaced.
The agency had wound down its presence in Timor-Leste after repatriating more than 220,000 East Timorese refugees who had fled the violence surrounding the August 1999 UN-organized referendum on independence from Indonesia. The refugee agency also assisted some 28,000 people who wanted to stay in Indonesia. In December 2005, UNHCR wound up its humanitarian operations in West Timor, ending six years of work in the region.