NZ considers aid increase to stricken East Timor

The Government is considering more aid for East Timor as aid agencies report on a growing humanitarian crisis in the stricken country.

World Vision NZ spokesman Bruce Waldin said today the situation was desperate after thousands of people fled their homes during the recent violence to live in camps and settlement.

More than 150,000 people, between 15 and 18 per cent of the population, are believed to be living in camps or settlements.

"The situation in many of these camps is appalling," Mr Walden said.

"They are overcrowded and many lack basic hygiene, access to clean water and are living in extremely cramped conditions. Children are no longer in school and are vulnerable to ill health through unsanitary conditions and poor diet. There are 36,000 children living in camps in Dili alone, and this is a real concern."

A spokesman for Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Government was set to approve more aid on top of the $3 million already given since the violence started in April. That money was on top of the annual $4.1 aid contribution to East Timor.

"New Zealand is likely to make a further food aid contribution to East Timor in the next week or two.

The best avenue for the funding is being assessed.

"We're getting daily reports from our post in Dili and on the overall situation as well as what the key humanitarian needs are."

A spokeswoman for government NZ Aid agency said the $3 million had gone into providing food aid - New Zealand co-funded a rice shipment, water, accommodation and sending police officers.

Mr Waldin said food, protection, emergency shelter, health care, water and sanitation remained key needs.

"World Vision is sending more staff to Timor Leste and they will be drawing up a six-month relief programme focusing on food, health, child protection and shelter where the greatest concentrations of displaced people are," he said.

Violence erupted in East Timor in April between loyalist government troops and 600 dismissed soldiers, before spreading to the streets where rival gangs went to battle with homemade weapons.

At least 30 people have died and around 150,000 were forced from their homes in bloodshed that is still being investigated by national authorities and a special UN commission.

- NZPA

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