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ADRA continues providing shelter, food for Timor refugees

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JAKARTA, INDONESIA - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) continues to serve thousands of those still living in West Timor, providing stable and dry shelters and much needed food as the rainy season increases health risks to the refugee families.
Approximately 100,000 refugees are still living in West Timor, despite a repatriation program launched by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in mid-October, according to ADRA West Timor Project Director Elie Gasagara. By December 31, it is estimated that more than 125,000 refugees returned home, including more than 83,000 with UNHCR assistance and nearly 42,500 by their own means.

"Within West Timor, approximately 50 percent of the refugees are in overcrowded camps, with limited water supplies and sanitation facilities," Gasagara reports. "Shelters are inadequate for the rainy season that started in early January, acute respiratory tract infections and gastro-intestinal diseases are still prevalent and there are fears of outbreaks of epidemics. Malnutrition, though, is the biggest problem."

ADRA together with CARE International developed a standard shelter design to accommodate two families in a structure made of wood and tarpaulin. ADRA is delivering the structures (7 meters long X 4 meters wide X 1.5 meters high at the side walls) to the most needy families in 14 refugee camps in the Belu District. Also, ADRA and CARE are providing dry platforms to refugee families, as a majority are at present without any form of flooring other than mats on rough ground, according to Gasagara. To complete the shelter program, the UNHCR office in Atambua provided ADRA with 850 tarpaulins.

"ADRA is providing an incentive to those being assisted to help speed up the operation and to encourage them to work with the program," explains Gasagara . "For each completed shelter and dry platform, ADRA provides a small wage. At the moment 550 shelters and more than 2,500 dry platforms are completed and being used by refugee families." ADRA estimates that 624 shelters and nearly 2,800 dry platforms will be finished by the end of February 2000.

According to ADRA Indonesia, from the very beginning of the crisis, food distribution was a serious concern to refugees and humanitarian agencies. A nutritional survey conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in five camps in Belu District of West Timor revealed that up to 70 percent of children are malnourished.

ADRA responded with a supplementary food distribution program targeting nearly 2,100 families (approximately 11,500 refugees) living in 14 refugee camps in the Belu District. ADRA distributed the food to these camps during three days prior to Christmas. Food packages contained such items as fish, noodles, beans and oil. With each delivery, ADRA also gave each family a special Christmas card with encouraging words about the approaching new millennium. The cards also served as food distribution cards to identify the beneficiaries in each location.

All of ADRA's efforts in West Timor, valued at more US$220,000 to date, are being funded by ADRA donors in Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Australia, Germany, United States, New Zealand and Canada. A donation of US$100,000 from ADRA's office in Italy was provided by HELP International.

ADRA's International office, located in Silver Spring, Maryland, is still accepting monetary donations for its relief efforts in West Timor. To make a donation, please call ADRA's toll-free number 1-800-424-ADRA (2372). To make an online donation or to find out more about ADRA, visit the web site at www.adra.org.

Contact: Beth Schaefer, Media Relations Manager
Phone: (301) 680-6355 Fax: (301) 680-6370