UN calls for nearly $19 million in aid for 130,000 displaced in Timor-Leste

12 June 2006 – The United Nations today launched an appeal for some $18.9 million in humanitarian assistance to Timor-Leste, the tiny nation shepherded to independence by the world organization where an estimated 133,000 people have been displaced by recent violence centred in the capital, Dili.

Assessments by the UN and partners have identified 55 locations in and around the capital that host around 70,000 of those people, while a further 63,000 people have fled to the countryside, placing strain on scarce resources and food, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said.

“Those who have been displaced by the deplorable violence of the past weeks need our help. The United Nations has been working with the Timorese since before independence; we must now provide for those who fear harm may befall them,” Jan Egeland, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said.

The UN agencies and their non-governmental partners, which were already providing long-term development assistance in Timor-Leste, had been able to respond to the sudden crisis on a short-term basis. With the situation not yet resolved, however, today’s “Flash Appeal” aims to fund humanitarian work over the next three months, OCHA said.

Speaking to reporters in New York, Mr. Egeland said that humanitarian assistance was crucial to efforts to end the unrest in the country, which erupted after the dismissal in April of nearly 600 soldiers from the army, a third of the total armed forces.

“If we do not succeed in providing this assistance there will be much more tension, if we can have a successful humanitarian programme there is a little bit of a respite to solve the political and the security one,” he said. “We have to invest in all three areas simultaneously, not only on the humanitarian side.”

With funds raised through this appeal, the World Food Programme (WFP) and its partners will provide food to IDPs and affected communities, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and partners will improve shelter and provide non-food relief, according to OCHA.

In addition, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will expand their work in child protection and preventing gender-based violence, while conflict resolution through short-term job creation is planned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Other humanitarian efforts include UNICEF plans to work with the Ministry of Health to immunize young children against measles and to provide them with vitamin A supplements, while the World Health Organization (WHO) will provide medicines and other health supplies.

On the political front, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, today continued his efforts to resolve the current crisis, holding more high-level meetings with Timorese leaders, a UN spokesman said.

Mr. Hasegawa met with the Timorese President and Prime Minister, as well as with the Speaker of the National Parliament. He welcomed the Government decision to invite the UN to investigate the shooting incidents of April and May, according to the spokesman.

Mr. Hasegawa also sought the Timorese views on the requirements for a follow-on UN mission in the tiny nation, which, is likely to be of greater scale, following last week’s consultations between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Envoy for Timor-Leste, Ian Martin.

“It’s fairly clear the UN will have to reconsider and probably increase its posture in Timor as we move ahead,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at the time.

At present an international force including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Portugal, which ceded colonial control of Timor-Leste in 1974, is helping to restore order at the Government’s request. The UN presence has decreased gradually since the original UN Transitional Administration (UNTAET) was set up in 1999 after the country voted for independence from Indonesia.

Once independence was attained 2002, that mission was replaced with a downsized operation, the UN Mission of Support in East Timor (UNMISET), which in turn was succeeded by the current residual UN office in Timor-Leste (UNOTIL).

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