Posted in 1999-East Timorese Crisis

EAST TIMOR: DILI: HUMANITARIAN CRISIS

English/Nat

In the multibillion dollar business of international aid, food is a weapon when it falls into the wrong hands – provoking battles, prolonging wars, luring desperate refugees out of hiding only to be slaughtered.

So when the sky over the red ridges of East Timor rained rations, the shower signalled more than the United Nations simply tweaking the technique of air drops.

It was a life-and-death new try to get food where it belongs – in the mouths of the unarmed and starving.

The United Nations admitted Sunday that the humanitarian crisis in East Timor is much worse than expected.

Most villages in the troubled territory are severely damaged.

Fires are still burning in some villages.

So people continue to starve in the jungle rather than risk returning to homes that may no longer exist.

U.N. officials estimate that three in four houses have been destroyed.

Military flights have been dropping food and medicine to refugee camps in the mountainous interior.

But the hinterlands remain almost inaccessible because militias still lurk along many roads.

As Indonesian troops prepared to leave East Timor, they found time to sell food to the starving locals.

Safe within their compound the soldiers were selling anything from sacks of rice to fresh vegetables.

Some within the U-N mission believe the food was stolen during the burning and looting that followed last months vote for independence.

Dili airport was humming to the sounds of C130 Hercules planes that landed throughout the day.

They brought with them badly need food and medical supplies.

As the U-N prepares for the second stage of it’s mission, the securing of routes to the jungles, its hoped that the food will soon reach the hungry refugees.

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