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At a glance: Timor-Leste

Precarious conditions face many families displaced by conflict in Timor-Leste

UNICEF Image: UNICEF image: Timor Leste
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2006/Johnson
UNICEF’s Representative in Timor-Leste, Shui-Meng Ng, holds the two-day-old baby of Lidia Octavia in a camp for people who have left their homes in the capital, Dili, to escape recent violence there.

By Madhavi Ashok

DILI, Timor-Leste, 31 May 2006 – The arrival of Australian troops in the Timorese capital has seen a considerable improvement in the security situation, but at least 75,000 people have fled their homes to escape the recent violence here. Living conditions for many of the displaced are becoming unsanitary – particularly in makeshift camps set up in schools, churches, convents and even the airport, which has become a temporary shelter.

The birth of three babies in three days to women seeking refuge in a camp on the edge of Dili emphasizes the urgent need for increased humanitarian relief.

"Help has to reach these camps immediately, and not just food and water,” said UNICEF’s Representative in Timor-Leste, Shui-Meng Ng. “Babies are being born in these camps under conditions which are unsuitable. They and their mothers need looking after. We need to take care of preventive health care needs of these people."

As of yesterday, a UNICEF team had visited 9 of an estimated 35 to 40 camps in the city to assess the situation and provide clean water and latrines. The team reported very precarious conditions in at least three of the larger camps, with overflowing toilets, stagnant water and growing piles of garbage.

UNICEF Image: UNICEF image: Timor Leste
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2006/Gomes
Mothers watch over children playing with a puppy at a camp for people displaced by violence in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Aid agencies work together

While UNICEF and other aid agencies are providing critical aid, more support is required, including basic family water kits, tarpaulins, water tanks, water-testing kits and adequate latrines. UNICEF hygiene promotion volunteers will organize in-camp teams to clean garbage and toilets, and regulate the water supply.

With the security situation improving, there is hope that these activities will commence soon. Emergency education supplies for displaced children are also being secured.

UNICEF is a key member of the Inter-agency Humanitarian Assistance Group, which is working with the Government of Timor-Leste. The group has been actively providing support since early May, when large numbers of people first began leaving their homes to live in camps after violence, house-burning and looting became widespread as a result of a civil conflict.




30 May 2006:
UNICEF's Country Representative in Timor-Leste, Shui-Meng Ng, explains how recent violence there has affected children and women.
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