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Helping to Find a Way Forward

Friday 9 June, 2006

Helping to Find a Way Forward

Australian troops on patrol in Dili, Timor Leste

DILI, TIMOR-LESTE – When members of the Caritas Internationalis assessment team arrived in Dili, it was very much a city under siege. The streets were deserted save for the armoured personnel carriers international peace-keepers, occasional groups of youth lurked on street corners, press cars gathered by the latest burning house and aid vehicles travelled to and from food distributions.

Members of the Caritas Internationalis assessment team

The assessment team with members from Caritas Australia, Caritas Dili, Trocaire (Caritas Ireland), Caritas New Zealand and Catholic Relief Services spent the early part of the week visiting IDP camps and talking to the camp coordinators about their needs in the short and long term.

The team met with some wonderful people, many of whom had been thrust into leadership roles and were now responsible for the care of thousands of frightened individuals and families who had sought refuge in their churches, schools and other compounds.

So as helicopters buzzed overhead, a number of camp coordinators and the assessment team gathered together to formulate a plan towards helping those affected by the conflict.

Co-ordination meeting

With so much experience and skills to draw upon, some concrete ideas were formed to look at needs and possible solutions. There was the obvious ongoing need for food, water, shelter and healthcare as no one knows when the situation in Dili will have calmed enough for people to feel they can return to their homes safely. In addition, peace-building and reconciliation activities were highlighted to heal the pain and suffering caused by events over the past month and rebuild relationships. Many also identified the need for income generation activities as the high unemployment and resulting frustration was seen as a contributing factor to the violence.

As the Caritas Internationalis team prepares to leave Dili, there have been subtle changes in the city. As each day passed more and more people could be seen venturing out into the streets, vendors have set up their roadside kiosks to sell an array of produce and items such as phone cards and cigarettes.

Despite this air of normalcy, the situation in Dili remains far from resolved. At night gangs of youth still terrorise neighbourhoods and IDP camps are still shelter tens of thousands too scared to return to their homes. International troops still patrol the streets and helicopters buzz overhead. The homes and businesses that have been destroyed will need to be rebuilt and more importantly peace will need to be restored between the Timorese so that this fledgling nation can get back on track.


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