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Catholic Relief Services Responds to Indonesia and East Timor Crisis Update February 2000

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On the island of Timor - one half in Indonesia and the other half being the new country of East Timor - Catholic Relief Services is assisting refugees living in West Timor camps as well as people in East Timor. There has been significant increase in the level of insecurity throughout the country.
Words from Deng Guigento

Deng Guigento, CRS staff member working in Dili, East Timor is living and working with other agency staff in a small four room house. Since the staff live and work in the same house, the working hours are extended until late in the evening. "People are coming and going while we are still eating our breakfast," says Guigento. "All in all, our CRS/East Timor emergency response is going well. We're really working hard," says Guigento.

Catholic Relief Services Works with Local Organizations

The agency's biggest challenge in East Timor is to assist the local partners in building up their capacities so they can resume critical development activities. Catholic Relief Services' partners suffered serious losses - their offices were destroyed, vehicles were stolen or destroyed, their bank accounts were frozen, and their staff fled during the mayhem. The future of East Timor rests with these local organizations. Catholic Relief Services is committed to assisting the Timorese organizations so that they will resume their position as primary providers of East Timor's development assistance.

However, there are still thousands of refugees in West Timor, many of whom want to reunite with their families in East Timor. Catholic Relief Services biggest challenge is to correctly inform and assist refugees who wish to return to East Timor. For those wishing to remain in West Timor, it is imperative that the agency work hand in hand with the local population to find a long-term solution.

Background of the Situation

The United Nations Security Council created the UN Transitional Administration in East Timor or UNTAET to help run East Timor for the next several years. In Dili and in other towns of East Timor, shelter still remains a critical need for those returning. Food, water, wood and building materials for shelter - the basic necessities of life - are still in very short supply. Up to 75 percent of the homes in some towns have been damaged.

The respected moderate Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid has begun his term as Indonesia's fourth president with the opposition leader Megawati Sukarnoputri as vice president. The same Assembly that elected the president and "Mega" also voted to accept the pro-independence results of the East Timor referendum.

East Timor, as a new nation, is starting from scratch. From a Portuguese colony to an Indonesian province, East Timor has seen 200,000 people killed in its land over the last 25 years. Now as a newly independent nation, it has no government, no laws, no civil service, and no police. Adding to this, its infrastructure has been devastated by the militias that reacted in fury when the East Timorese voted overwhelmingly for independence.

History

Catholic Relief Services began operating in Indonesia in 1957 through food distribution programs. The agency maintained an office in East Timor between 1975 and 1988. Over the years, resources have been transferred to local organizations to support projects in the areas of emergency relief, health, sustainable agriculture and enterprise development. Catholic Relief Services continues to work with these local organizations, assisting the citizens of this new nation.

Copyright=A91999 CRS