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UNTAET Humanitarian Pillar - Situation Report: East Timor Crisis 18-31Dec 1999

General: During the past two weeks, humanitarian agencies have continued to work on the basis of the six main priorities identified in the Inter-Agency Consolidated Appeal. Through the coordination structure first established by OCHA, which has been incorporated into the UNTAET Humanitarian Pillar, agencies have sought to: 1) facilitate the voluntary return of East Timorese from West Timor and other locations; 2) ensure food security through distributions and seeds and tools programmes; 3) provide a rudimentary health care network; 4) ensure potable water in areas where the water system has been damaged or destroyed; 5) revitalise communities through education programmes, psycho-social trauma counselling and micro-credit schemes and 6) repair and reconstruct approximately 35,000 residential shelters.
On-going efforts to include East Timorese counterparts in the Pillar's coordination structure have been bolstered by a new team of expert linguists who now provide translation services at all seven of the sectoral working groups. The recent appointment of Timorese focal points by the CNRT to key sectors including food assistance, agriculture and shelter have helped to improve coordination. Finalisation of the Pillar's capacity-building project for the CNRT's Emergency Commission will shortly result in the acquisition of resources needed by the Commission to become fully operational.

Discussions continued between UN Agencies and NGOs with representatives from all three UNTAET Pillars. The aim of these discussions is to clarify institutional responsibilities and mandates and agree on a framework for enhancing cooperation and coordination. Representatives from the Humanitarian Pillar also met with the District Administrators in late December to explain the humanitarian operation. In coming weeks, senior representatives will hold high- level meetings with members of the CNRT, churches, student groups and other civil organisations to improve coordination.

During the first weeks of January, humanitarian agencies plan to conduct a review of existing programmes in each sector. The aim of these reviews is to identify gaps in coverage and obstacles to programme implementation. On the basis of the reviews, programmes in each sector will be adjusted.

As part of the Pillar's commitment to ensuring a smooth transition from emergency to rehabilitation and development, joint teams will visit all thirteen districts during the first weeks of January to help plan and implement Quick Impact Projects (QIP).

The aim of QIPs, which are being funded by OCHA and other agencies, is to rapidly rehabilitate public facilities on the basis of priorities established by East Timorese in each community. QIPs are designed to demonstrate the ability of UNTAET to respond in a timely fashion to pressing local needs.

Security: Security in East Timor remains good although isolated incidents continue along the West Timor border. Following a recent grenade incident in Maliana, INTERFET officers and UNTAET military observers posted on the border met with representatives of the TNI to ensure that appropriate controls are in place. INTERFET continues to ensure the overall security of East Timor, although law and order and public safety responsibilities are being passed to UNTAET's civilian police force. As part of on-going efforts at demobilisation, former Falentil members are being employed by INTERFET as guards at several installations.

Returns: The past two weeks have witnessed an increase in the number of refugees crossing into East Timor. On several days, more than 1, 000 people entered through one of the active points at Suai, Batugade or the Ambeno enclave. On 22 December, 1,355 people arrived in the country, one of the highest daily totals in the past six weeks. The total number of returnees now numbers 125,732 of whom 83,239 returned on organised movements and 42,493 spontaneously.

Significant secondary movements occurred from both Suai and Dili. In the largest movement, 274 people were moved on 28 December on an INTERFET barge from the Suai transit centre to Betano port where IOM provided transportation by road to Same. On 31 December, 210 people remained in the Dili transit centre awaiting onward movement to Same and seven other locations.

UNHCR reports that following the mid-December announcement by head of the militia, Mr. Joao Tavares, that all units will be disbanded, intimidation appears to be decreasing, particularly in the Atambua area. UNHCR's information campaign, aimed at providing an accurate picture of conditions in East Timor, continues to help counter rumours and other incorrect propaganda. "Go and See" visits, although temporarily suspended following an incident in Baucau, have also provided refugees with relevant and unbiased information.

Of the East Timorese who remain in West Timor, a sizeable number are former civil servants who appear to be waiting news regarding employment in the new civil service and compensation. Former members of the TNI also appear to be waiting for information regarding their future before deciding whether to repatriate.

Food Assistance: To date, 20,685 MTs of food supplies have arrived in East Timor including rice, maize, beans, vegetable oil, edible fat, humanitarian daily rations, high protein biscuits and high energy biscuits. WFP reports that 13,932 MTs of this food have been delivered to approximately 460,000 people in more than 275 locations. During the past two weeks, 2,303 MTs have been despatched.

Since end of September when the first distributions began, four agencies--World Vision, CARE, Caritas and Timor Aid--have distributed food on an emergency basis to the general population and institutions including orphanages and hospitals. In an effort to avoid dependency, agencies will shift in January to targeted distributions for vulnerable groups including low-income families, female-headed households, widows, disabled, etc. Following intensive discussions, food for work schemes have been recently approved by the CNRT and will be introduced shortly in all thirteen districts.

The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment of East Timor undertaken from 25 November - 6 December found that the overall food supply prospects in the medium to long term are relatively positive. The Mission concluded that contrary to initial expectations, destruction in the agriculture sector was less than anticipated.

The main damage was to livestock and food and seed stocks, which were either looted or burnt. The Mission predicted that cereal production, however, will decline significantly next year. The Assessment forecast production in 2000 at approximately 89,000 tonnes of maize, around 30 percent below normal production levels, and 36,000 tonnes of rice, 20 percent below production levels.

Shelter: To date, two shipments of shelter materials and cement have arrived in Dili. Trade Winds Japan has delivered some of these materials to Liquica with GOAL delivering additional supplies to Aileu. During the next few weeks, the six other implementing partners working under the UNHCR umbrella are expected to despatch materials to outlying districts. Although some of the vehicles which will be used for the shelter programme have been already procured, more than 25 additional mid and heavy-load trucks will arrive in Dili during the next weeks. Agencies are continuing to identify appropriate warehouse space at the five central delivery points-Oekussi, Dili, Com, Suai and Betano. Fifteen rubhalls are due shortly and will be immediately erected at these points in addition to Ainaro, Same, Manatuto, Baucau, Batugade and Ermera.

Thus far, UNHCR has begun procurement procedures for 18,000 units out of the 35,000 originally planned. Twelve thousand additional units will be procured in the months ahead. UNHCR will review the programme before tendering for the last tranche.

During the next several months, one vessel per week is expected to arrive in East Timor carrying shelter materials. With each house representing approximately 1.6 MTs of material, imported tonnage for the programme is expected to reach 28,000 MTs by end March. Thirty percent of the materials will be shipped directly to East Timor's other deep-sea port at Com. Supplies for the other central delivery points will be barged from Dili.

Health: During the past several weeks, the caseload for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory track infection has increased. The increase, due to seasonal factors, is putting additional strains on existing facilities, many of which are over-subscribed.

In January, Caritas, in conjunction with MSF, will begin the first comprehensive tuberculosis programme since the crisis. In order to be successful, patients must receive regular treatments over a six-month period.

Agencies continue to vaccinate children against measles. At border crossings, UNICEF teams composed of local health workers immunise refugee children. As part of efforts to integrate Timorese health professionals into existing programmes and upgrade their skills, nine local workers now provide all medical consultations and screening for refugees arriving at the new Dili transit centre.

Health agencies are continuing to provide services at the more than 72 facilities which have been rehabilitated since 20 September. Local health workers are also being financially supported by agencies in the interim until regulations and salaries are agreed through the National Consultative Council (NCC).

Water and Sanitation: In Dili, UNTAET will shortly assume responsibility for water and sanitation programmes currently operated by ICRC. UNTAET has also worked closely with OXFAM to draft a plan of action for improving the city's waste management system. Funding for this important project is currently being sought. A UNICEF team of 15 Timorese technicians continues to construct latrines and install handpumps in Dili district. In the hard-hit village of Santa Cruz, the team has installed more than 120 handpumps. UNICEF is also working with the local NGO, Bia Hula, to improve water supply to Dili's central market place.

As part of on-going efforts to ensure potable water in outlying districts that suffered extensive damage, OXFAM continues to repair existing water systems in Liquica, Maliana and Suai. In Liquica, OXFAM is providing half of the piping needed to finish the city's abandoned pipeline. In Maliana and Suai, local engineers who worked for the water authority have been identified and trained in field testing. Management of the local systems will be eventually hand-over to these engineers. OXFAM is also training local technicians in water purification procedures. These technicians will be despatched for testing around the country as needed.

In Manatuto region, ACF continues to rehabilitate and disinfect wells in all four of the sub-districts. The agency is also assessing the irrigation system which will require extensive repair. ACF is currently conducting hygiene education programmes in both Manatuto and Ermera districts with the aim of reducing water-borne and other diseases. ACF's engineer is conducting an assessment of Ermera's water system prior to beginning repair of the city's pipeline in mid-January.

Agriculture: Five agencies--CARE, World Vision, GAA, Oikos and Caritas/CRS-are continuing to procure and distribute more than 100 MTs of unhusked rice seeds for the early January sowing season to deficit areas throughout the country. Additional seeds will be distributed in coming weeks to areas with a later sowing season. Although some high quality seeds have been imported, the majority have been procured from Viqueque where participants in an exchange programme have swapped seed paddy for milled rice at a 40 percent premium to the farmer.

During the past two weeks, hundreds of metric tonnes of hand tools, hoes, shovels and farming implements have been delivered to farmers in time for the sowing season. Additional implements are expected to arrive shortly and will be immediately despatched. Following a request at the Tokyo's donor consultation by the President of the CNRT, Mr. Xanana Gusmao, donors have provided funding for tractors, training and operators. The CNRT is currently arranging to transport the tractors from Darwin in mid January. Agencies are procuring vegetable seeds for planting as soon as the tractors arrive.

Daily radio broadcasts are due to begin shortly on radio Kmanek and other stations. An early morning broadcast will present metrological information to be followed later in the day with a programme on market conditions and agricultural techniques to improve yields for vegetable and rice stocks.

As part of efforts to diversify the rural economy, plans are underway to develop aquaculture. Inland fisheries are expected to open in coming months in Gleno, Maliana, Viqueque, Same and Ermera. The Agricultural Working Group will shortly conduct a technical assessment of the sector with the aim of identifying the concrete steps needed to ensure food security. The assessment is expected to form the basis of a plan of action that will incorporate the following priorities: repair to irrigation systems; education and training; reorganisation of farmer cooperatives; introduction of new, but sustainable technologies. The assessment will also incorporate data collected during nutritional surveys.

Education: UNICEF estimates that 84,674 primary students are now attending 514 schools in East Timor, taught by 3,930 teachers. Statistics for secondary enrollment are being collected. As an interim measure until the civil service structure is agreed through the NCC, UNICEF is paying both financial and food incentives to primary school teachers and food incentives to secondary teachers.

School-in-a-box and recreation supplies have arrived and are being distributed through District Education Committees on the basis of locally-determined priorities. Building materials to repair primary schools have also begun arriving in Dili port. The first tranche of galvanised iron sheeting was despatched last week to Manatuto to be used by the Philippine Army Engineering Taskforce on school reconstruction.

Logistics: The logistics network continues to be over-subscribed due to increased usage and the retrenchment of INTERFET assets. The withdrawal of INTERFET contingents during the next two months is expected to create significant logistical difficulties for the humanitarian operation which relies on helicopter, barge, vehicular, loading and aircraft support provided by INTERFET. As part of a contingency planning effort, agencies have identified the assets required for the operation for the next three months. Assets not provided by the agencies will be sought from the new peacekeeping forces due to arrive shortly in East Timor.

The road system in East Timor continues to deteriorate. Viqueque has been cut-off to vehicles for several days during the past two weeks. Several villages in the central highlands, particularly in Ermera, Manufahi and Ainaro districts, have become inaccessible. Agencies estimate that more than 65 villages and hamlets are now accessible only by foot. Despite difficulties with the road network, agencies, including WFP, continue to conduct daily road convoys.

On 18 December, WFP's helicopter operation ended for the holiday season. Flights are expected to resume on 4 January. The first priority for the helicopters will be to transport rice seeds from Viqueque to deficit areas. Usage of INTERFET helicopters stopped last week. Henceforth, INTERFET will only be able to provide occasional and exceptional helicopter support. During the third week of December, use of UNTAET helicopters for UN Agencies and NGOs was temporarily suspended. Under new operating rules, humanitarian personnel will be given access to the UNTAET helicopters on the basis of priorities set by the Humanitarian Pillar.

WFP's airbridge from Darwin to Dili continues to function with flights five days per week. The Kupang to Dili airbridge stopped on 30 December. Beginning 3 January, WFP will open a weekly airbridge from Denpensar to Dili with a stopover in Kupang.

The Dili harbour remains congested. Vessels carrying shelter materials are now arriving on a weekly basis with other humanitarian ships docking less frequently. The WFP barge continues to transport humanitarian supplies to Extended Delivery Points (EDP) at Oekussi, Suai, Betano, Com, Baucau and Beacu. The French navy ship, Jacques Cartier, delivered supplies for humanitarian agencies the last week in December and will be departing Darwin for Dili on 2 January carrying additional stocks. The Jervis Bay has continued to transport supplies and personnel between Darwin and Dili.