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MSF readies for a massive population return

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Preparations for MSF developments in East Timor have increased with the arrival of 30 metric tonnes of supplies in Darwin, Australia, where MSF activities in East Timor are being coordinated. In addition, a second MSF flight is scheduled for today (September 29) with additional staff and cargo.

MSF operations are being coordinated from Darwin and there are ten ex-pats ready to leave along with an additional 36 metric tonnes of goods and supplies. There are now 11 MSF ex-pat staff in Dili and they are preparing for a massive return of people to the city. Expectations are that between 30,000 and 80,000 people may return in the next few days. There has already been a flow of people back to Dili that has pressed the MSF operations.

On Monday, the MSF clinic at the Dili Stadium was swamped with people seeking care. There was only one case of suspected malaria. So far there are no signs of malnutrition but there have been some wounds needing treatment. Most of the people visiting are heads of households and very few are staying.

Most have come to view the city and the extent of damage and security before returning to their families, wherever they have taken safe haven, and deciding whether or not to return. The influx of goods and staff, and the new staff scheduled to enter East Timor, has meant MSF is better able to expand it sphere of operations. An exploratory team is heading to Baucau to conduct an assessment and MSF hopes to re-establish operations there immediately. But East Timor has suffered substantial damage to buildings and infrastructures.

According to the UN, the cost to return East Timor to its previous standards has been estimated to be in excess of $100-m over the next six months. A U.N. Human Rights Commission has voted in favour of an international investigation into alleged atrocities by pro-Indonesian militias in East Timor. However the Indonesian Government has said it will not cooperate with the inquiry as the Indonesian investigation will suffice.

As the international community re-establishes itself in the region, there is increasing information about Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). OCHA reports that there are over 12,000 IDPs in the enclave of Oecussi/Ambero where the immediate needs are food, shelter and medicine. However providing aid throughout the region is still constricted by security limitations.