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East Timor: ICRC returns to Dili

16-09-1999 News Release 99/38

Two ICRC delegates returned to Dili on 14 September to assess the situation there in humanitarian terms and meet military authorities to discuss security guarantees that would enable the organization to resume its work in East Timor.

Though the delegates received assurances from the military, security problems in Dili and the surrounding area remain. Indeed, the two were struck by the scenes of destruction and of despair among people still present in the capital, who are in urgent need of help. Like the ICRC office itself, most of the city's houses have been looted and burned down.

While it has not yet been possible to organize a large-scale relief operation, the two delegates were able to carry out a small distribution. They are now looking for suitable storage areas as well as medical facilities capable of providing care.  Aircraft will be chartered to deliver both the supplies and the logistical means needed for a more comprehensive return to East Timor. Teams of medical, relief, logistical, water-and-sanitation and administrative staff are preparing to leave for the territory.

Meanwhile, non-food items such as blankets, tarpaulins, cooking sets, jerrycans and sleeping mats are being distributed to displaced people, who have come to the Belu and Atambua districts of West Timor near the border with East Timor, by a 20-member team (including medical staff) from the ICRC and the Indonesian Red Cross Society. The security situation in the border zone has been very poor – two ICRC employees from East Timor have been abducted – and threats have prevented the organization from having more than limited access to the camps in the area. According to official figures , some 200,000 people have so far crossed from East into West Timor. Over 70,000 East Timorese have sought refuge in several camps in Belu district and another 24,000 in Kupang district. More displaced people are continuing to arrive and the ICRC will step up its activities to cope with the increasing needs.