Refugee crisis in Aceh as fighting continues

Thousands of refugees housed at a camp are suffering food and water shortages as Indonesian troops and separatist rebels continued fighting in Aceh province on Monday.

    Refugees lack sufficient  
    quantities of food and water

    According to figures from the refugee command post, more than 15,000 refugees from 13 villages are living in tents on a football pitch.

    Local residents told reporters that at least 100 tents – each large enough to hold 100 people, had been erected since Friday.

    Health workers voiced concern that at least 700 refugees, mostly women and children are suffering from acute respiratory illnesses, influenza, or skin problems.

    Mariyati, a 34-year-old mother of four living at the camp in the rebel-dominated Bireuen district, said she had not eaten  since Friday.

    "We did not eat since the first day we came. The rice that was distributed was only enough for children," she was quoted as saying in Monday's Koran Tempo newspaper.

    Mariyati who is sharing her tent with 80 other people said she had gone back to her village to get money to buy rice, but paramilitary police turned her away.

    "According to them, residents are not yet allowed to go back home because TNI (armed forces) soldiers are still attacking a Free Aceh Movement (GAM) base," she said.

    Women and children are suffering
    from various illnesses

    The Jakarta Post reported that other refugees at the camp are suffering from a lack of clean water, and sanitation problems.

    "Many here don't bathe any more," said Mustafa Dadih, a 58-year-old schoolteacher. "We have problems washing in the morning because there isn't enough water."

    As of Sunday, about 41,855 refugees were living in 16 tented camps across the province, another military operations spokespersonn, Lieutenant Colonel Ditya Sudarsono, told reporters in Banda Aceh Monday.

    An official with the social affairs ministry, told the French news agency AFP that another group of 10,200 refugees could be found in the south Aceh district.

    The conflict in Aceh began on 19 May when the Indonesian army launched a major offensive against GAM rebels, following the collapse of a six-month-old ceasefire agreement.

    More than 200 are thought to have been killed since the campaign began.


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