IRC helps East Timorese rebuild ravaged communities

News and Press Release
Originally published
by Melissa Winkler
New York, 30 Aug 2000 - A year has passed since vengeful pro-Jakarta militias laid waste to East Timor in reaction to the territory's August 30 vote to separate from Indonesia. As the fledgling country moves toward independence, the IRC remains hard at work, helping war-weary East Timorese rebuild their ravaged communities.

Anticipating a political crisis surrounding East Timor's referendum, the IRC brought in an emergency team several months ahead of last year's vote. So when Indonesian-backed militias unleashed their arson, looting and killing spree days after the ballot and forced hundreds of thousands of East Timorese into Indonesian West Timor, the IRC was ready to begin emergency assistance.

Through local organizations, we sent food, medicine and clothing to refugees in West Timor and displaced people within East Timor. It was not until the U.N. peackeeping mission entered East Timor in October 1999, to set up a transitional authority, that refugees began to slowly return. The IRC had already begun to prepare for them, initiating what is now a major program, made possible by your support, to resurrect destroyed towns and aid in the recovery of a population traumatized by decades of armed conflict.

A psychosocial program to promote the healing and social development of war-affected children and adolescents is underway in four districts. The project involves building the capacity of communities to help these young people adjust and integrate, and to promote tolerance and reconciliation in returnee areas.

Our health team in East Timor is leading a public awareness campaign to combat high rates of malaria, while continuing to distribute insecticide-treated bed nets in high-risk areas. At the same time, the team is training local health care workers in disease prevention and reproductive health.

The IRC also operates an emergency non-formal education program, which offers displaced children and teens the chance to learn, catch-up and participate in educational activities in the absence of formal schooling.

Ninety percent of all structures in East Timor were destroyed in the post-referendum mayhem. In the hardest hit areas, the IRC is providing materials and construction training to villagers to help them repair their homes, schools and community centers and to prepare housing for refugees who have yet to return from West Timor. IRC tracing teams are also working to reunite East Timorese families fractured during last year's violence.

For more information contact:

Stephanie Barton-Farcas, Emergency Programs

212-551-3119 or stephanie@theIRC.org

Media inquiries can be made to:

Melissa Winkler, director of communications
tel. (212) 551-0972 or Melissa@theIRC.org