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Official hand over speech given by ICRC East Timor head of delegation, Mrs. Lise Boudreault

29-06-2001 Statement

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are all united today for a very special occasion: the hand over of the Dili National Hospital from the ICRC, to UNTAET... to the DHS... to the Timorese.  Who would have imagined back on the 14th of September, 1999, that today, June 29th, 2001 -- 21 months later -- that this moment would come? Probably no one.

On the 14th of September 1999, eight days after the evacuation of ICRC delegates from Dili, four delegates came back to East Timor and found Dili in the shocking state that so many of you gathered here remember all too well: the burned houses... the devastation...

What brings all of us here together, begins with a story about an assessment and coincidences.  Back to'99. An assessment of a critical situation on the field.  Knowing that there were victims who needed assistance and remembering Dili Hospital... was it burnt down?  What about the patients? The delegates went to the hospital and then came the coincidence: during the assessment, walking through the wards of the empty hospital, there was a hand... a hand reaching out through a window which caught the attention of one of the delegates.

The decision was taken right then. ICRC will assume the management of the Hospital. For how long?  We didn't know.  Will the situation deteriorate further?  We hoped not, but we didn't know.

Now, let's think about what we have accomplished together over these past 21 months.  More than 140,000 patients have been treated, and some 11,000 patients have been admitted from all over East Timor.  Almost 4,000 surgical procedures have been performed and some 3,000 babies del ivered, including the little boy of Xanana Gusmao. Let us make no mistake about it -- this has been an astounding achievement.

A new era begins tomorrow. The Division of Health Services (DHS) will be fully in charge, after months of meetings, briefings, and hard work... The ICRC sees this as a positive change and is confident in the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, the International Committee of the Red Cross is leaving the Dili National Hospital, but the ICRC is not leaving East Timor. Not after 20 years of presence.  There is still much work to be done.  The ICRC will continue working on behalf of families of persons missing, families who still do not know the fate of their loved ones.  The ICRC will continue to visit persons deprived of freedom in East Timorese detention facilities.  The ICRC will continue to provide the means for separated families to exchange family news.  The ICRC will continue to repair and rehabilitate water sources in rural areas to provide drinkable water. And the ICRC -- working alongside the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies -- is honored to take part in the creation of the Cruz Vermelha Timor Lorasa'e, the future National Red Cross Society of East Timor.  We all look forward to the day in East Timor when there will be more East Timorese wearing the Red Cross emblem than foreigners.

Finally, dear friends,

Let us remember the extraordinary assistance provided to the Dili National Hospital from 1999 until the present.  I would first like to thank the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Sergio Vieira de Mello for extending limitless support to ICRC's efforts during these 21 months, and particularly during the recent period of hand-over.  I would also like to thank all the DHS staff, both Timorese and their expatriate counterparts, in particular, Dr. Rui Araujo and Jim Tulloch for their continuous and excellent support.  It would be unforgivable not to mention the support of the donor countries that generously contributed to the Dili National Hospital right from day one.  I would like to pay special tribute to the Red Cross National Societies of Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, whose assistance was invaluable.

On behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I would like to extend our final thanks and deepest gratitude to the East Timorese Staff standing with us today. Your efforts have helped save hundreds... perhaps thousands... of lives.  The Dili National Hospital is now officially in your hands.

                                    Thank you