Subject: E.Timorese refugees face starvation

The Jakarta Post November 17, 2001

E.Timorese refugees face starvation

Yemris Fointuna, The Jakarta Post, Kupang

The Indonesian government has practically halted humanitarian aid for 143,803 East Timorese refugees now living in West Timor, East Nusa Tenggara, since September, or three months earlier than its official plan to cut all aid for refugees in December this year.

The refugees told The Jakarta Post at their camps in Kupang and Noelbaki village on Thursday that they had no idea why the aid had been abruptly stopped.

Up to September, each refugee had been provided with 400 grams of rice and Rp 1,500 per day.

"We have received nothing since September. We are really in trouble," Manuel Agustino Olieveira, a refugee said in Kupang.

A similar complaint was also voiced by Zuka Mudjiono Lay, the refugee camp coordinator in Noelbaki.

He said as many as 8,214 people from 1,481 families had run out of food since the aid had been stopped three months ago.

"They have had to find their own way to make ends meet; some ask food from local residents," he said.

Meanwhile, the head of Ministry of Social Affairs provincial office, Husein Pancratius, admitted that the government had been late in distributing rice and money.

"Yes, we acknowledge that, but we want to give what is due to them before December," Husein said, without explaining why the aid had been stopped.

He said the government's 'debt' to the refugees totaled Rp 27 billion and some 6,000 tons of rice.

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