BACK DOOR Newsletter on East Timor      home    June news

"That night on the way home from work, I pass a ship the size of an oil tanker, dwarfing the palm trees. It is the UN hotel. International staff serve, manage and cook. Food comes from Singapore and Australia. It serves 600 guests, paying AS$ 150 a night. Not a cent gets into the local economy. That is, if you exclude the shy girls, sitting next to aid workers in their four-wheel drive cars. They aren’t imported from elsewhere. They’re cheaper here." Kies Rietveld, a medical doctor who has worked in Afghanistan and East Timor

 

IFRC: East Timor Diary (WDR 2001 excerpt)


A summary of the Red Cross 2001 World Disasters Report is available
online at http://www.ifrc.org/publicat/wdr2001/contents.asp

The following is a sidebar from the report’s chapter 2
“The ecology of disaster recovery “

East Timor diary, 20 April 2000

By Kies Rietveld, a medical doctor who has worked in Afghanistan and East Timor.

At half past six, the sun is shining. Children shout, “Hello Mistar” on my morning run. Most suburban houses still lie in blackened ruins. No repairs are going on. The UN has levied a 10 per cent tax on timber for roofing beams. Aid agencies are exempt. Private repairs are not encouraged. It’s cheaper to wait and let a foreign organization do it for free.

I arrive at the sea. In the bay waits a ship. It has been there for some weeks. On board are things normal people need, like soap, to be sold in the shops. But the ship has to wait. All harbours except Dili are closed. Supplies for the 10,000 peacekeepers, UN officials and humanitarians have priority.

Back at my hotel (a bunch of containers in a car park), I listen to the Australian owner negotiating over a huge fish. The local fisherman wants twelve dollars. The owner pays him six Australian dollars. Fish-steaks will be sold over lunch at AS$ 12 a piece. Forty steaks could come out of this fish.

That night on the way home from work, I pass a ship the size of an oil tanker, dwarfing the palm trees. It is the UN hotel. International staff serve, manage and cook. Food comes from Singapore and Australia. It serves 600 guests, paying AS$ 150 a night. Not a cent gets into the local economy. That is, if you exclude the shy girls, sitting next to aid workers in their four-wheel drive cars. They aren’t imported from elsewhere. They’re cheaper here.

To help disaster-stricken people rebuild their lives and their livelihoods, strategies for post-disaster recovery must grow out of the ‘ecology’ of the affected community.


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