Subject: JP: East Timorese dying in NTT refugee camps

Jakarta Post January 12, 2000

East Timorese dying in NTT refugee camps

JAKARTA (JP): Over 400 East Timorese who fled their violence-ravaged homeland following the Aug. 30 self-determination ballot have died from various diseases in their refugee camps throughout West Timor in Indonesia.

Antara quoted the latest data issued by the East Nusa Tenggara administration on Tuesday, which revealed that 310 of the victims were children, 262 below five years of age. Adults made up 185 of the mortalities.

There were no details about the diseases which caused the deaths.

A recent joint study conducted by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the Indonesian government revealed that 24 percent of the children in the Belu refugee centers were malnourished.

The research team recommended that the government provide supplementary food for children. Supplemental food has thus far been restricted to youths and adults.

Most of the deaths, 236, were found in Kupang regency, followed by Belu regency, which abuts East Timor, with 177. Other deaths were reported in Kupang mayoralty, North Timor Utara and South Timor Utara regencies, at a figure of below 20 each.

All the province's 12 mayoralties and regencies have become home to some 270,000 East Timorese since the violence erupted in East Timor in September of last year.

The province's disaster handling unit reported that 79,324 refugees of 15,493 families were repatriated as of Jan. 10. It said the remaining East Timorese had yet to decide whether to follow suit or to remain part of Indonesia.

The government has set the March 31 deadline for the displaced East Timorese to choose their nationality.

The province's official in charge of social affairs, John Payong Beda, said the local administration would refresh the data on refugees in order to determine further policies regarding the refugees.

"We will inform them that the government will stop the emergency humanitarian aid for them at the end of February," John said.

The government allocated Rp 20 million for each refugee in the current fiscal year ending March 31. Coordinating minister for people's welfare and poverty eradication Basri Hasanuddin said that the government lacks the funds to continue the humanitarian program.

From Atambua, the capital of Belu, Unicef representative Gorys Ferdinand said his organization, in cooperation with related government agencies and churches in East Timor, had built tens of schools in nearby refugee camps in West Timor for at least 3,000 displaced children of school age.

Gorys said Unicef would recruit veteran teachers among the refugee population to staff the schools.

The project is part of Unicef's education assistance program for children in West Timor, which will cost Rp 3 billion. The program will last six months, starting from January. (amd)

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