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ARC responds to urgent needs of East Timorese

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Minneapolis, November 10, 1999: Just two months ago images of East Timor flashed across our television and computer screens, revealing the realities of the price of independence. Rather than seeing citizens rejoicing in their new freedom, the public was overwhelmed by scenes of extreme violence.
"It seems that before the public had time to respond to this crisis-a crisis that has been building for years-it evaporated from the headlines," said Anthony Kozlowski, President and CEO of the American Refugee Committee (ARC). "This was, and still is, a crisis of great magnitude. More than 500,000 out of the population of 890,000 were displaced by violence in East Timor, and an additional 250,000 were moved into West Timor and other areas, either by choice or through intimidation."

It is this group of displaced persons that ARC is focusing on in the initial phase. With support from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), ARC is operating in Atambua, which has the largest concentration of refugees in West Timor. According to Gary Dahl, ARC's Director for Southeast Asia, ARC is providing water supply and sanitation services, curative health care, maternal and child health care, (including reproductive health services) and Community Health Worker (CHW) outreach.

"Our immediate goal is to improve and ensure the health status of approximately 250,000 East Timorese refugees through the prevention, early detection and resolution of public health problems," said Dahl, a native of Northfield, Minnesota, who has worked in Southeast Asia for more than ten years. "ARC will provide adequate health care for the displaced population from East Timor while living in temporary camps and during repatriation and reintegration."

"In West Timor, access to the displaced persons has been most difficult, and at times very dangerous," said Anthony Kozlowski. "The situation is deteriorating rapidly, and without immediate provision of preventive and curative health care measures, there could be a public health disaster. The prevalence of malaria, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections and tuberculosis could reach epidemic levels and the health risks are likely to increase by the onset of the rainy season, which makes the need for immediate response even more urgent."

The American Refugee Committee (ARC) works for the survival, health, and well-being of refugees, displaced persons, and those at risk, and seeks to enable them to rebuild productive lives of dignity and purpose, striving always to respect the values of those served. ARC is an international nonprofit, non-sectarian organization which has provided multisectoral humanitarian assistance and training to hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries since 1978.

ARC has grown over twenty years to provide multisectoral assistance to more than one million uprooted people-mostly women and children-in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Guinea, Liberia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Thailand.

ARC programs provide assistance in primary health care delivery (including reproductive health services), improved water and sanitation, shelter reconstruction, micro-credit schemes, environmental rehabilitation, and psychosocial services. ARC works with local communities and their leaders to build their capacity to care for themselves by training health workers. ARC prefers not to provide assistance which is either impossible or difficult to sustain once ARC has left an area. ARC receives support from individuals, corporations and foundations, and grants from United States and other governments and United Nations agencies. At least 90 cents of every dollar spent by ARC goes directly toward refugee assistance programs. ARC has been recognized by major funding organizations for its efficient and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance.

For more information, please call Jules Hersman at 612-607-6474 or e-mail pr@archq.org.

Copyright © 1999 American Refugee Committee