Food Distribution Outside Dili Begins But Planned Demonstrations May Bring Delays


IOM trucks carrying 37 MT of government
rice are scheduled to leave Dili for the western district of Ermera
today as the first step in a plan to deliver one-month food rations
to an estimated 78,000 displaced people and their host communities
in the 12 districts outside the capital.

But distributions to Ermera, Manatuto and
Liquisa districts in the west, and the eastern district of Baucau
scheduled for this week, may face delays if a series of
demonstrations by anti-government groups in Dili goes ahead. The
first of the demonstrations, which are expected to run through the
end of the month, is taking place today outside government house
amid heightened security.

Concern is growing that food shortages in the
districts may be resulting in malnutrition for both displaced
families and their hosts. “A family of ten may suddenly find
itself with ten extra mouths to feed for weeks or months –
and that can’t be sustained without some external help,
particularly when the economy has more or less ground to a
halt,” says IOM Dili chief of mission, Liuz Vieira.

The government has also asked IOM to
distribute a second two-week rice ration this week to Dili’s
67,000 IDPs, currently sheltering in 55 camps. The ration provides
2kgs of rice per person per week. WFP will provide additional food
including corn soya blend, cooking oil and sugar.

IOM is today also loading 41 MT of government
rice onto a ferry destined for Atauro island. Some 1,300 people
have fled to the island from Dili and the distribution of two weeks
supply of food will target both IDPs and the island’s normal
population of 9,000.

Other agencies including WFP, UNHCR, UNDESA,
Oxfam, CRS, CARE and local NGO Belun will use the same ferry,
expected to sail tomorrow, to deliver additional food, tents,
plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, blankets, hygiene kits and five
vehicles to facilitate the distribution.

At Dili’s Comoro airport, where IOM,
with partner NGOs AustCare and Rede Feto, has taken over management
of the IDP camp, there is little evidence to suggest that people
are beginning to return to their homes despite an apparent decline
in the violence.

Comoro now hosts some 4,000 IDPs living in 450
tents supplied by UNHCR and people continue to leave the camp by
day and return at night to sleep – either from fear or
because their houses have been torched. Security is provided by
Australian troops securing the adjacent airport.

“People are beginning to talk about a
return to normality. But with over 2,000 heavily armed IPKF troops
patrolling the streets day and night on foot and in armoured
vehicles, the situation still is very far from normal,”
observes UN security officer Anton Boshoff.

IOM is helping the Timor-Leste government to
coordinate the logistics needed to deliver food and non-food relief
items to displaced people and host communities nationwide. It is
also helping the government to coordinate and manage IDP camps,
identify outstanding needs in the camps, and cover any shortfalls
in terms of shelter and non-food relief items.

For more information, please contact:

Chris Lom

IOM Dili

Tel: +670.723.1576

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© IOM 2006 (Photo: Angela Sherwood)