Subject: AP: East Timor calls for aid for the 100,000 displaced

Also BBC:

UN in aid appeal for East Timor

East Timor calls for aid for the 100,000 displaced

The Associated Press

Published: June 12, 2006 []

DILI, East Timor East Timor pleaded for international help on Monday to feed and house 100,000 people displaced in the capital, after more than a month of sporadic fighting among military factions and rival gangs.

"We need more assistance and if more assistance is provided, then we can control the situation, " and slowly have people return to their homes, Foreign Minister José Ramos-Horta told reporters. He did not elaborate.

Along the beach front, a few banners strung between trees issued handwritten pleas for aid.

"Our people are starving," one read, in capital letters written in black on a white cloth.

Some 600 striking soldiers were dismissed in March, triggering clashes with loyalist forces that deteriorated into gang warfare, with machete-wielding youths fighting in the streets, setting homes ablaze and looting government warehouses.

At least 30 people have been killed, despite the presence of more than 2,000 foreign troops, and Ramos-Horta said earlier the death toll may be higher.

International aid groups and the United Nations are already helping the estimated 100,000 people who fled their homes for makeshift shelters and camps in and outside of Dili.

"I believe in the next few weeks, as they are more reassured about the security situation, they will start heading back to their homes, if they have any homes," Ramos-Horta said after addressing the tiny nation's Parliament.

"If they don't, the international agencies are ready to provide temporary shelters," he added.

More than 100,000 people have fled their homes, including an estimated 63,000 in districts outside the capital, said Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The agency plans to bring in supplies for about 30,000 of the displaced people, and the first phase - 150 tons of relief supplies - arrived in Dili late Monday. The shipment, including tents, plastic sheets, blankets and kitchen sets, will help 17,000 refugees, Rummery said.

She said the United Nations would issue a "flash appeal" on Tuesday for donations.

Earlier Monday, the agency erected tents at a makeshift camp that had sprung up around the international airport in an attempt to improve the living conditions.

The world agency also cleared a football field at a Catholic college - where 13,000 people have taken shelter - to set up tents there. Rummery said the government has asked the agency to start a camp at the national stadium.

The agency was also working with other aid groups that provide water and sanitation to prevent disease and sickness. On Tuesday, the Health Ministry and Unicef plan to begin a mass measles vaccination campaign aimed at children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years in camps in Dili.


UN in aid appeal for East Timor

The United Nations is to issue an appeal for East Timor, where unrest has caused thousands to flee their homes.

Fien Riske-Nielson, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in East Timor, said the UN was seeking $18m (£9.8m) to support aid operations for three months.

Some 100,000 people were estimated to have left their homes and there were signs that number was rising, he said.

Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta warned that a political solution to the violence would take time.

"As far as a political solution (is concerned), that would take a few more days or even weeks before there is an absolute clarity of what direction this country is taking," Mr Ramos Horta said.

The two were touring a refugee camp which is currently home to 14,000 refugees.


Mr Riske-Nielson said the appeal would be launched later in the day at the UN's New York headquarters. He expected "a positive response to the appeal".

But he expressed concern about the number of people fleeing the violence.

"We are planning to do an assessment again in the coming days because there are indications that the number could be increasing outside Dili," he said.

And he warned that overcrowding in the camps could lead to outbreaks of disease. "The situation in the camps is very difficult," he said.

The UN was due to ship 150 tons of relief supplies to Dili later in the day.

On Sunday, East Timor's government asked the UN to set up an investigation into the violence.

A probe was "critical for Timor-Leste to overcome its present crisis", Mr Ramos Horta said in a statement.

The violence was sparked by the sacking in March of 600 soldiers. Their protests led to gang and ethnic violence, mainly in the capital, Dili, and at least 20 people are known to have died.

A multinational force of some 2,200 troops is in the newly-independent nation to try and control the unrest.


Feb: More than 400 troops strike over pay and conditions

March: Government sacks nearly 600 of 1,400-man army

April: Rioting by sacked troops leaves five people dead

May: Violence intensifies, with battles between gangs from east and west of the country

24 May: Government asks foreign troops to take control

Story from BBC NEWS: 

Published: 2006/06/12 09:14:54 GMT

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