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Wednesday, September 22, 1999 Published at 07:59 GMT 08:59 UK


UK 'water aid' bound for East Timor

Refugees are in grave danger of illness from water-borne disease

A UK charity is loading a flight with water equipment to help East Timorese refugees stricken with a growing sanitation problem.

East Timor
The UK branch of international relief agency Oxfam is to send 28 tonnes of aid including mobile water tanks, purification tablets and latrines, to the stricken country.

It is loading the equipment from its warehouse in Bicester, Oxfordshire, on Wednesday. The aid will be flown from Manston, Kent, to Darwin, Australia, on Thursday, to boost the charity's aid supplies there.

This will mean that health and water experts can take them to East Timor when the country has been made safe by international peacekeeping forces.

It is thought 200,000 people fled to West Timor to escape a three-week terror campaign by pro-Indonesian forces after East Timor voted for independence on August 30.

Up to 300,000 more refugees are thought to be hiding in mountain and forest areas.

'Little clean water'

Oxfam has said it will be the leading agency providing water and sanitation in East Timor.

The aim is to deliver clean water to the refugees, as well as people who had fled over the border into West Timor, said Oxfam spokeswoman Alison Woodhead.

"Our expectation is that they are extremely hungry and they also have very little clean water.

"Our main priority will be to get water equipment out to them and to make sure that they are not getting ill from having to use dirty water," she said.

"In both East and West Timor, that is a real problem because people are using paddy fields to wash and to defecate in so there is a real danger from water-borne diseases.

"It is also the dry season and water supplies are already pushed to the limit."

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