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Timor-Leste: internally displaced numbers increase

16-06-2006 News Release

In just one week the number of internally displaced has increased in the Baucau district from an estimated 16,000 to 24,000 people.

 The following was issued as a press release by the ICRC regional delegation in Suva.  

To establish exact figures remains challenging since many displaced have joined family members in villages spread throughout the area.

The Timor-Leste Red Cross Society (CVTL), supported by the ICRC today completed the first distribution of aid to some to 216 displaced families (1,500 people). For the time being, they are staying at makeshift camps at a primary school and bus station in Baucau town.

Tarpaulins, mosquito nets and jerry cans were distributed to families, and in addition, a 2,000 litre water bladder and tap was installed at the school, and 10,000 litres of clean drinking water was delivered to the bus station. The distribution follows a recent survey carried out by ICRC delegates and CVTL staff, which identified needs at the camps.

“At the school overcrowding is a problem with some families having to take shelter on the veranda, which although under cover is open on all sides,” said Robin Bovey, an ICRC delegate, adding:

“To help provide families with some protection from the elements, CVTL staff erected tarpaulins to act as windbreaks. At the bus station where most families are staying in open-fronted shops, the tarpaulins will help to protect them from the weather and provide some privacy.”

CVTL health teams have helped to set up mosquito nets at both camps and have advised families of the importance of their use. 

A priority for the Red Cross was to improve the sanitation facilities at the bus station. Bruno Soares, the regional CVTL branch co-ordinator said.

”With only four public toilets available for use by over 900 displaced, families living nearby and local market stallholders, conditions were extremely poor.” The CVTL, assisted by the local fire brigade, has cleaned the toilets, so as to prevent potential health problems, and make life just a little easier for the families.

There was also a need for water in upper Baucau, where displaced families staying with relatives had increased household numbers dramatically. As a result, water was in scarce supply. The ICRC and CVTL installed a10,000 and 5,000 litre water bladder and taps to help improve the situation. The ICRC has trucked 2,000 litres of fuel for the local water authority's generator.

“This will help alleviate the water shortage in Baucau town” said ICRC delegate, Marek Komarzynski, adding: " 25,000 litres of water are being trucked daily to these three identified sites serving 8,500 people so far. We hope that by the end of the week displaced families in Baucau should have sufficient clean water. "  Water will also be supplied on an ad hoc basis if needs are identified.

Another priority for the ICRC and the CVTL is to assist families separated by the recent violence. In order to re-establish family links, an ICRC and a CVTL tracing officer travelled to Baucau to follow up on tracing requests received in the capital Dili. But this is not always an easy task. Says ICRC delegate Matija Barisic.

“The family we had hoped to trace had been reported as living in a village outside of Baucau. Unfortunately, the information we had been given was very limited, and despite talking to village leaders, we were unable to trace the family concerned. However, when you have vulnerable individuals who need protection, you have to follow up on every lead you have, " she said.

Further assessments of areas where displaced families are staying are being carried out, and one site where some 200 families are staying has already been identified. An additional distribution of non-food items will be made by the ICRC and CVTL to Baucau next week.

In another joint effort to ease the situation of displaced families, ICRC and CVTL staff distributed tarpaulins, mosquito nets and other items to 57 families in Talito village, Aileu district. 

Initial CVTL/ICRC assessments indicate that 5,000 people, who left Dili are now living with family members in the districts of Aileu and Ermera. The humanitarian situation is, therefore, less urgent than in Baucau or Dili. However, the Red Cross will return in the coming days to cover basic needs.