Violence in Timor Leste affecting NGOs
MEDIA ADVISORY Date: 26 May 2006
Violence in Timor Leste affecting NGOs
An escalation in fighting in and around Timor Leste’s capital Dili has seen thousands evacuate the city, according to the Council for International Development (CID).
CID Executive Director Rae Julian says that the growing violence has interrupted the work of a number of New Zealand NGOs and their partners operating in the country.
Many local staff in Dili have been unable to return to work, often being forced to leave the city, and a number of expatriate staff have been evacuated. New Zealand-based NGO workers have had to postpone visiting the country, and the disruption to phone services has caused added communications problems.
There are currently seven New Zealand NGOs currently operating in Timor Leste. Their work includes development projects in vital areas such as water and sanitation, health, community development and education.
HETA Trust is currently working in three villages on the outskirts of Dili on water and sanitation projects, health training and school sponsorship. The current problems have affected all their work as the school has closed down and many of the villagers have left the area for safety in the mountains. HETA Trust has also received requests for money for food as villagers have been unable to sell the firewood they use for funds to buy their food.
ChildFund currently have a close partnership with CCF Timor Leste, with community development projects in the country. CCF Timor Leste operates seven community development projects across the country, with their office focusing on two projects, one in Maliana district and one in Suai district.
Many of ChildFund’s local staff have been unable to attend work in Dili, having had to leave the city, while two non-Timorese staff members are due to be evacuated from the country, including CCF Timor Leste’s Program Manager. While ChildFund are not currently aware of the extent to which the violence has affected their projects outside Dili, they understand the violence has interrupted all normal activities in the National Office and are currently trying to ascertain how CCF Timor Leste has been affected.
Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA)
Despite difficulties in communications, Volunteer Service Abroad were able to evacuate its five Dili-based volunteers to Darwin yesterday. VSA are waiting for the situation to normalise before deciding about their return. They noted their dedicated volunteers were reluctant to leave.
Christian World Service (CWS)
Christian World Service (CWS) works in Dili through its partners, the Dominican Sisters, on a school, an orphanage and a small farm. The threat of violence, including the close proximity of the fighting and gunshots, have forced the Sisters to relocate. CWS are monitoring the situation.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
Caritas are working in Timor Leste with Caritas Dili, Caritas Australia linking to CRS, Cafod and Progressio and the Sisters of St Paul’s de Chartres (SSPC). All are network and development partnerships. The SSPC are looking after dozens of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in their compound. They report that large numbers of other IDPs are sheltering in Church compounds in the city and outside.
Although hampered by the communication problems affecting the capital, reports are that very little movement is possible at this time and all work has ceased.
World Vision East Timor staff members were forced to remain indoors again yesterday as gunfights persisted in the streets nearby the World Vision compound. World Vision East Timor has been servicing the three largest (IDP) camps in Dili, and expects to do so for the next few month at the least. There were, at last count, around 50,000 IDPs in the capital.
World Vision East Timor is supporting a mobile clinic, supplying food, and disposing of garbage. Security allowing, they are due to start distributing firewood and cooking supplies. World Vision are regularly assessing the situation in order to offer the best possible support for the staff based in Dili.
CID IS THE UMBRELLA ORGANISATION THAT REPRESENTS 81 NZ BASED AID AND DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES
COUNCIL for INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT ~ PO Box 24
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