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Caritas Distributes Relief in Timor Leste

Sunday 4 June, 2006

Caritas Distributes Relief in Timor Leste

Leo, Manuel And Louis at the Police Academy

DILI, TIMOR LESTE – This morning Caritas member, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) distributed non-food items to six IDP camps around the capital Dili, as the security situation remains too volatile for people to return home for long periods of time.

The distributions were of mosquito nets, soap and women’s kits, with food items having been delivered the previous week by Caritas Australia, Caritas Dili and CRS.

Reports indicate there are over 100,000 IDPs, around the capital with most seeking safety in Catholic churches and church buildings.

One of the camps visited is run by the Cannossian Sisters at Haas Laran, a college before the current unrest, but now houses around 6,000 IDPs who have sought refuge in its classrooms.

Clothes lie spread out to dry on the stones outside, and bedding is stacked up against the walls, while small children shyly walk up to say “Bon dia (Good day)” in the local language, Tetum.

Members of the Fatima family

Abel Fatima is one of the IDPs staying at the college. Having lived through the tragedy and unrest of 1999 he is surprised and saddened by what has been happening in Dili over the past six weeks.

He said he and all his family, made up of 12 children and grandchildren are staying at the camp, sleeping in one of the classrooms. Unlike many who leave and go to their homes during the day, returning to seek shelter and safely at night, Mr Fatima has no home to go to as everything he has was lost in recent looting and burning. “Everything is lost, my home was burnt, and my pigs and goats have been taken,” he said.

“I now need tools and materials to be able to start again,” he said.

Another of the camps to receive non-food items from CRS, was situated at the Central Pharmaceuticals warehouse that had been opened by the Ministry of Health to receive IDPs.

Fatima Soares, 16, has been staying at the camp for a week with her mother, aunt, younger siblings and cousins, one family among 900 other IDPs.

Abel Fatima

Unlike many families who have begun to return home during the day, Fatima says she prefers to stay at the camp during the day as well because it is safer.

“It’s ok being at the camp, we have food and shelter, but when it is safer I would like to go home,” she said.

In addition to supporting Catholic churches and schools, CRS also dropped off non-food items at the Masjid An-nur mosque, where around 300 people are taking refuge.

A total of six camps were visited and supplies off-loaded, with further visits planned in another week, depending on the availability of items and funding. As the current situation in Timor Leste remains at a standstill it is anyone’s guess as to when the IDPs will be safely able to return home.


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