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Emergency response

Around 150,000 people were displaced during violent conflict in East Timor in 2006.

Outbreaks of violence in East Timor continued sporadically for two years after 2006, creating an ongoing humanitarian emergency.

Around 150,000 people – a large number of them women, children and the elderly – were forced to flee their homes at the onset of the violence and move to makeshift camps in the capital city, Dili, or return to their home districts to take refuge. At the beginning of 2008 some 100,000 people were still displaced, with about 30,000 people living in camps in Dili.

The violence erupted out of a disagreement between elements of the armed forces in the west of the country and those from the east. This disagreement descended into open hostilities, drawing in the involvement of police and various criminal and political groups. While the violence has subsided, the humanitarian crisis remains.

Oxfam’s response

Oxfam provided immediate aid, working with the East Timor Government and other agencies. Oxfam provided the following support in Dili, Liquica, Oecusse and Cova Lima districts:

Water, sanitation and hygiene promotion

  • Supporting the Department of Water and Sanitation to co-ordinate water, sanitation and hygiene activities in the Dili camps
  • Working closely with the Ministry of Health on hygiene and health promotion and monitoring any increase in illness in the camps
  • Supporting local partners and organisations in Liquica with water and sanitation activities

Supporting the safe return of displaced people

  • Partnering with national non-government organisations and the East Timor Government to promote and support the safe and sustainable return of internally displaced people
  • Supporting human rights monitoring and the promotion of human rights to minimise the effects of conflict
  • Providing input to the government’s strategy for the return of internally displaced people

Food security and nutrition

In Oecusse and Cova Lima districts, Oxfam is working to address the food insecurity that has developed as a result of the crisis. People fleeing Dili have moved in with families in the districts, increasing pressure on limited food stocks in homes.

We will continue to scale up our programs aimed at improving people’s nutrition and food security. We are currently working in 60 communities comprising some 15,000 people.

Humanitarian co-ordination

Oxfam is supporting the East Timor NGO Forum (the umbrella organisation for national non-government organisations), providing leadership in a range of areas related to the conflict including conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, human rights monitoring and policy development.

Protection and peace-building activities

Oxfam is working with the Government of East Timor to ensure that the rights of all East Timorese are protected. We are:

  • Supporting partner organisations to conduct community-based mediation to identify underlying issues relating to the conflict
  • Supporting a community radio programme aimed at promoting peace and the safe return of displaced people to their families
  • Supporting local organisations to promote, monitor and report on issues relating to human rights and justice

Meet the People

Nono and Lucia

Credit: Michael Riach/OxfamNono and Lucia, together with their two children, aged 5 and 4, fled to the grounds of the Catholic Cathedral in Dili as their home burnt to the ground during the May 2006 violence. The family is from the west of East Timor and was targeted by neighbours from the east. Nono is too frightened to return his family to their home and can’t afford to rebuild.





Teressa and Tereziuha

Credit: Michael Riach/OxfamTereziuha, a 40-year-old widow, and her sister Teressa, 22, together with Tereziuha’s five children fled with nothing but the clothes they were wearing when their house came under attack in January 2006. “Life in the camp is difficult because of a lack of money, food and clothes,” Teressa says. “We both miss the privacy, quietness and tidiness of our own house and miss being able to sleep peacefully.”