From M2 Presswire
UNICEF -- Support for Timor urgently needed
DATELINE: October 28, 1999
The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) today urged the international
community to put its full weight behind ongoing relief efforts in East and West
Timor, where as many as 400,000 displaced people are facing worsening health
conditions from an early onset of monsoon season.
The rain, which has fallen every day this week, is accelerating the spread of
illness in the refugee population, almost 40 per cent of which is estimated to
be under the age of 15. Diarrhoea and respiratory infections such as pneumonia
are on the rise, and the threat of malaria - carried by a mosquito population
that thrives on damp conditions - is also growing.
"We have been working overtime to address the health needs of these
their families," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "Yet with these
rains, conditions are certainly getting tougher. This is precisely the time we
need the international community to redouble its commitment to the Timor relief
Earlier today, the United Nations family of agencies appealed for nearly $200
million over the next nine months to meet emergency humanitarian needs in West
Timor and provide for relief and reconstruction in East Timor. UNICEF programs
that specifically address the health, education and psychosocial needs of
children - including a comprehensive immunization campaign and back-to-school
effort - make up $14 million of the total appeal.
"We are at a crucial juncture in the relief effort," Ms. Bellamy said. "We have
managed to stay one step ahead of a major outbreak of disease, but it is clear
that, with the arrival of the monsoon season, the health of tens of
children remains at high risk."
In West Timor, some 240,000 refugees have been huddled in dozens of makeshift
camps since being hounded out of East Timor by militia groups in early
September. About three-quarters of these refugees are massed in the Belu region
of West Timor, near the East-West border. Many have been living out in the open
or under rickety lean-tos fashioned from dried palm fronds.
In East Timor, tens of thousands of displaced persons are still hiding in the
hills, where they retreated in early September to escape the militia rampage.
Large portions of this hidden population are still without adequate food,
and medical attention.
The rainy season - which was not expected until the end of November - struck
early, making life miserable for those without proper shelter. UNICEF is
responding with a rapid delivery of plastic sheeting, and UNICEF-supplied tents
are being set-up as health centres and for dry storage of food and other relief
items. The agency is also supporting the rapid installation of latrines and
other sanitation facilities.
To prevent the spread of disease, UNICEF has organized mobile health teams in
conjunction with partner agencies and local volunteer groups. In the West the
teams are moving from camp to camp, vaccinating children against measles and
treating malaria, diarrhoea and other illnesses. In the East a vaccination
campaign in the large cities was launched last week. Reception centres at the
East-West border are also providing health checks and vaccinations for
"It's true that the process of repatriating refugees from West Timor to East
>Timor has begun," noted Ms. Bellamy. "But while that process is very positive,
>it's important to recognise that it is slow-moving and likely to take months."
"By the end of November - in the heart of the rainy season - we can still
to be aiding more than 100,000 refugees in West Timor. And for most of
are already in East Timor, conditions will remain harsh for some time to come.
That's why this humanitarian appeal is so important."
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