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Timor Leste: assistance for the displaced in rural areas

30-06-2006 Feature

Since the beginning of the crisis in East Timor in April, the ICRC and the Timor Leste Red Cross (CVTL) have provided assistance to thousands of people displaced by violence


©ICRC/P. Wall 
Baucau, June 2006. Temporary camp for displaced families in a primary school.    
    During the most recent distribution, some 330 displaced people staying in three villages in the district of Baucau were provided with blankets, sleeping mats, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, cooking sets and jerry cans. It was the first such assistance these families had received. 

   The families are staying in abandoned b uildings and in rudimentary makeshift shelters. As in Baucau town, household numbers have increased as some are staying with relatives and in one village alone, 80 families were staying in five houses.

With the climate in Baucau cooler than in Dili, the blankets and sleeping mats were particularly welcome, as were the tarpaulins, which will provide families living in makeshift shelters with better protection from the sun and the cool night air. Whilst these items will go some way towards making life a little more bearable for these families, needs remain, with many families having virtually nothing at all.

ICRC delegate Robin Bovey said one particularly moving story was that of Celestino.

" Celestino fled Dili with his wife and six children. They stayed at a number of camps before arriving in Baucau with virtually only the clothes they wore, " Robin said.

" When I spoke to him, he was nearly in tears. The house the family is living in is bare except for a blanket, a pillow and a few other items, and they had no food or water, " Robin said.

The blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, and hygiene kits provided by the ICRC and CVTL were appreciated by Celestino, as was the promise that fresh drinking water would be delivered later. However, with the future of his family still unclear, a look of sadness and anxiety remained in Celestino's eyes. 

ICRC and CVTL teams also carried out a second distribution of non-food items to families staying at two temporary camps at a school and bus station in Baucau. In addition, a first distribution of items including blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, hygiene and baby kits were distributed to displaced families living in the local community in upper Baucau.

A 5,000 litre water thank has been installed at a newly identified temporary camp at a disused school in upper Baucau where some 500 displaced people are living. Some families are staying in the school's main hall and others are living in nearby buildings, some of which have no roofs. Hygiene conditions at the camp are extremely poor, and a priority for the ICRC and CVTL is to improve the sanitation facilities. A distribution of non-food items will also be carried out. 45,000 litres of fresh water is being trucked daily to these camps and six other sites. In addition water is supplied to other locations as necessary.

To date the ICRC and CVTL have assisted some 604 families (3,500 people) in the Baucau district

Non-food assistance has also been distributed to 80 displaced families (470 people) living south of Dili in the Ainaro, Aileu and Ermera districts. In Suco Liurei in the Aileu district, the ICRC and CVTL plan to improve the sanitation facilities of 18 families living in a former prison that also serves as a school. Currently the families, schoolchildren, and people who visit the mosque attached to the school are sharing one latrine.

In Dili the ICRC and CVTL continue to operate the Comoro pumping station, producing over 200,000 litres of clean drinking water daily. The water is trucked by the CVTL, local authorities and other humanitarian organisations to camps where displaced families are living.

Further distributions are planned in the Baucau, Ainaro, Aileu and Ermera districts, and assessments are ongoing.