Emergency Needs Overshadow Complex Political, Economic Challenges
IOM yesterday appealed for US$1.9 million
over the next three months to help the Timorese government to
coordinate logistics needed to deliver food and non-food relief
items to thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs).
The money, part of an US$18.9 million UN Flash
Appeal, would also go towards helping the government to coordinate
IDP camp management, identify outstanding needs in the camps and
cover any shortfalls in terms of shelter and non-food relief
IOM will shortly receive an US$837,000 grant
from the UN’s Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF) to fund
its logistics operations and provide non-food relief items,
including tents, tarpaulins, blankets, mosquito nets and jerry cans
for IDPs, many of whom lost everything in the widespread arson
attacks of the past month.
The Australian government has also pledged AUD
300,000 (US$ 223,000), which has allowed IOM to deliver food and
water to some 57,000 of Dili’s estimated 67,000 IDPs over the
past two weeks.
Working in close cooperation with the Timorese
Ministry of Labour and partner agencies including Care
International, Plan International and World Vision, IOM has
delivered over 210 MT of government rice to IDP camps, as well as
cooking oil, sugar, corn soya blend and high energy BP5 biscuits
provided by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in the past week.
In the week of 29 May to 4 June, it delivered
almost 150 MT of government rice, together with other food supplied
by WFP to IDP camps in Dili, Aileu, Ermera, Liquisa, Atabai and
Atauro island. IOM trucks and staff also helped Oxfam and the ICRC
to deliver drinking water to IDP camps in Dili, the district worst
hit by the apparently sectarian violence.
With an uneasy calm returning to the city, IDP
camp numbers have now started to decline slightly. Some people are
leaving the camps during the day to work or check on their houses,
returning only at night. But other families who fled to the camps
are now following some 35,000 other IDPs who opted to return to
their home districts when the violence began. Many are leaving
behind jobs and houses in Dili.
Meanwhile the UN, the government and rebel
factions are trying to seek a solution to the complex political
impasse triggered by the government’s decision at the end of
April to fire nearly 600 soldiers from western districts –
some 40 per cent of the army – after they complained of
discrimination by eastern commanders.
The desertion of the troops with their
weapons, their calls for the resignation of the prime minister, and
the ensuing clashes between rival factions of the army and police,
accompanied by gang street violence, looting and arson, led to the
intervention of an international peacekeeping force (IPKF) on 25
The deployment of the IKPF, which now
comprises some 2,600 troops and police from Australia, New Zealand,
Portugal and Malaysia, has resulted in an apparent restoration of
order, although the level of fear among the population remains high
and isolated incidents of violence, arson and looting continue.
Few observers feel that resolving the complex
political crisis in Timor-Leste, which gained its independence in
2002 after two years of UN administration following 25 years of
Indonesian occupation, will be either quick or easy for
The opaque political and economic agenda of
groups opposing the government and the potential to exploit
sectarian tensions between western and eastern districts, in a
country where poverty and unemployment are among the most severe in
Asia, remain a threat to stability and an obstacle to a negotiated
IOM has operated in Timor Leste since October
1999, when it established a massive land, sea and airbridge to help
some 190,000 East Timorese to return home, following the
territory's vote for independence from Indonesia.
It subsequently implemented and continues to
implement a wide range of small infrastructure and community
development projects throughout the country to stabilize returnee
populations. It has also worked to build government capacity and in
2001 organized the demobilization and reintegration of 1,300
members of the country's Falintil guerrilla army.
IOM currently employs 75 staff in Timor Leste,
of whom 10 are internationals. It has offices in Dili, Baucau,
Viqueque and Los Palos.
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