Mobile clinics allow more care throughout East Timor

The immediate increase in MSF activity in East Timor has been with the use of mobile clinics to visit areas with limited security and MSF planned involvement in the health care of refugees who are a part of the UNHCR organised repatriation programme.

MSF has managed to expand its presence and actions with a mobile clinic that is visiting Liquisa, a city about 40kms west of Dili. It is not possible to have a permanent facility there at the current time due to staff restrictions and the security situation. However the mobile clinic is expected to make the journey there on a daily basis, given security allows the travel.

In the first visit yesterday, MSF was part of a food convoy that was travelling there.

A mobile clinic also visited Viquenque in East Timor, about 60 km south of Baucau. An OCHA mission report states that Viquenque suffered little damage. Of the original population of 15,000, only 300 to 400 remain. The local hospital is undamaged but there are no drugs and only four nurses working.

An exploratory team was planned to visit Vemasse, a city in East Timor about 25 km west of Baucau on the road to Dili.

With security increasing daily and displaced populations more inclined to return to their homes, there has been a steady increase in the care of returnees to East Timor.

But the sense of security in East Timor is returning to the point that there are now regular buses running between Dili and Baucau transporting both people and goods.

MSF activity in the Stadium increased slightly with the arrival of approximately 70 displaced persons. They arrived in Dili by boat and passed through the MSF health facilities at the Stadium.

Another seven boats arrived carrying 250 people on October 5. The people were returning from the island of Atauro, north of Dili, where they had fled.

MSF has been developing its involvement with returning refugees and the planned OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) repatriation programme on Friday will bring returnees to the Stadium for MSF staff to check for any present or developing health concerns.

The OCHA repatriation plan is scheduled for Friday October 8, 1999 and the first effort is a test case. East Timorese sheltering in and near Kupang shall be part of a three-flight return programme. It is estimated that only 60% of those displaced are interested in returning at the present time.

The repatriation plan is voluntary. When the returnees arrive in Dili, they shall be brought to the Stadium where they shall be examined by MSF doctors.

MSF staff has remained at 21 members in total in East (12) and West (9) Timor and another three in Darwin, Australia.