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Update No. 99/02 on ICRC activities in Indonesia/East Timor

23-09-1999 Operational Update

 General situation  

The International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) began arriving in East Timor during the early hours of 21 September. Certain areas of Dili are now under INTERFET control and there are reports of some people returning to the capital from the hills. Nevertheless, there remains much tension in Dili itself and in the surrounding areas. The forces are extending their influence beyond the capital (notably in Baucau), and by so doing, trying to create the necessary environment to reassure the civilian population that it is safe to come out of hiding.

Displaced people are still arriving in West Timor on a daily basis and there are reports of continued militia action and violence.

 Humanitarian response  

The ICRC is still operating in both East and West Timor . There are currently 16 expatriate delegates in East Timor including logisticians, medical personnel and water and sanitation experts. However, the prevailing security conditions mean that they are confined to Dili for the time being and movement is limited.

In West Timor , a joint ICRC/Pelang Merah Indonesia (PMI - Indonesian Red Cross Society) team of 20 people, including medical personnel, has been working to alleviate the plight of the most needy in the Atambua and Kupang areas of West Timor since 8 September. Activit ies in Atambua especially have been hampered by poor security conditions and, although local authorities have given approval for expatriate staff to recommence visits to camps for the displaced, caution needs to be exercised since some people in the area have expressed concern about visits by non-Asian staff.

 Coordination with other agencies  

Discussions with other humanitarian players are ongoing both at field and headquarters level in an attempt to coordinate the relief effort. Contacts in the field are of the utmost importance and are carried out at various bases including Dili, Darwin and Surabaya. Amongst these contacts are various UN agencies (including the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the High Commission for Refugees), Ausaid, Médecins Sans Frontières, Médecins du Monde, Oxfam, CARE and Caritas. There are currently 14 international NGOs present in Darwin waiting to be flown to Dili. In the meantime, much of the humanitarian effort is taking place " remotely " via air drops.

 ICRC assistance activities  

 In East Timor  

Some food and non-food distributions have been made from pre-positioned stocks available in Dili and Dare since 18 September. However, given that there are still relatively few people in the town and that movement outside it is limited, the ICRC team in Dili has been focussing on consolidating the logistical set-up and making preparations for increased activities once the situation allows. Supplies, personnel, logistics material and vehicles have been flown in on flights from Surabaya twice daily since 15 September. An additional flight has been arriving from Darwin on a daily basis since 21 September.

Assistance efforts will be geared towards addressing food, non-food and medical needs in the short-term and adapted according to the response and coverage of the UN agencies.

The ICRC has taken over responsibility for the civilian hospital in Dili from the Indonesian authorities. The expatriate team there now includes two nurses, a surgeon and an anaesthetist. A few local staff have returned and ICRC delegates have started recruiting additional people from amongst those returning to the town.

The Norwegian Red Cross field hospital will be set up within the civilian hospital compound by the end of this week (26 September).

 In West Timor  

The displaced people from East Timor are lodged in constructed camps and tents or are simply sheltering under trees. There is a complete lack of health services in the majority of areas where they are congregating and relatively few have access to clean water or latrines. Cases of malaria and diarrohea have been reported. There is no precise information as to the number of displaced people but official estimates range between 190,000 and 200,000.

The ICRC/PMI team has so far distributed sarongs, blankets, mattresses, plastic sheeting and jerry cans to some 8,000 families (40,000 people) in 17 camps in the area. It is hoped that a progressive improvement of the security situation will allow for the distribution of relief assistance to a further 12,000 families (60,000 people), bringing the total of people assisted to in the region of 100,000.

The number of displaced people in Kupang remains relatively stable at some 16,000 families.

Health posts have been set up in Kovalima and camps in Atambua. Materials were distributed for health posts in a total of seven camps.

 Consignments on their way...  

In addition to the regular daily flights mentioned earlier, various relief items are arriving or are due to arrive in Timor in the next few days. Amongst the items en route are:

- a boat from Surabaya with 750 mt of food supplies and 50 mt non-food items;

- a boat from Darwin with the Norwegian Red Cross field hospital, trucks, non-food and water and sanitation material.

 ICRC protection activities  

One of the ICRC's major concerns is the protection of displaced people whether they be in East or West Timor. In the coming weeks, delegates will be striving to ensure that both resident and displaced civilians receive the protection that is due to them under international humanitarian law. In addition to assessing the living conditions/means of subsistence of the civilian population and analyzing cases of violations of international humanitarian law, this will include trying to restore family links and obtaining access to detainees as and where appropriate.

Thousands of families have been separated during the events of the last few weeks and an important component of ICRC protection activities will be to handle tracing requests.

The ICRC is making an offer of services to the UN regarding the access of ICRC delegates to all people detained by INTERFET.