Subject: 200 E. Timor refugee families eat forest cassava

3 August 2000

Pos Kupang ­ "200 E. Timor refugee families eat forest cassava" ATAMBUA ­ 200 E. Timor families staying in camps in Lakafean, Sukarlaran and around Atapupu, in W. Tasifeto sub-regency in Belu have begun to eat kumbili (a kind of forest cassava) and arbila (wild beans). For the past three months they have been forced to look for and consume this food because the stock of aid from the govt. and local and international NGOs has been exhausted. Zakarias Alfes, head of a refugee group in W. Tasifeto, acknowledged that these two kinds of food are poisonous. "To stay alive there's no other choice except to eat kumbili and arbila.. To get rid of the poison, this food must be repeatedly rinsed," he said. He also said he'd heard that refugees in other sites continued to receive Rp. 1.500/day for food supplements, but that refugees in Umaklaran, Lakafean, and Atapupu also no longer received this aid. 

Every day truckloads of rice are seen driving through these areas taking rice to E. Timor, but the people in these locations are ignored. He asked the Belu regency govt. to pay attention to their needs to avoid unwanted actions such as burglary and looting. Head of former Troops for the Integration Struggle (PPI), Joao da Silva Tavares, promised he'd try to get help for the E. Timor refugees in Belu now suffering from lack of food. "The govt. also must immediately give aid, because the refugee situation is a consequence of govt. tricks. If not, I will lead a demonstration to the NTT Governor's office," threatened Tavares. 

From Kalabahi it was reported 7 Alorese refugee families (families who once transmigrated to Poso, Central Sulawesi but have fled back to Alor since fighting broke out in Poso), have complained of food shortages because they have received no government aid since they arrived in Alor on Friday (21/7). Head of the Alor Social Agency, Julius Mau, has promised he'll coordinate with the respective parties to give aid. "To overcome the food shortage, beginning today, Thursday (3/8) through Monday (7/8) food aid will be given, but for only five days. After that another policy will be taken."

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