Caritas Dili in Timor-Leste has begun distributing emergency aid to almost 100 drought-hit farming families facing an acute food shortage on a remote island. The drought, caused by the El Nino phenomenon, has affected 92 families — some 460 people — living on Atauro Island, 25 kilometres north of the national capital Dili. "They are only surviving by eating cassavas and leaves," Caritas Dili director, Father Adrian Ola Duli, told ucanews.com on Sept. 13. Three tons of rice and instant noodles, as well as milk and cooking oil, were distributed among affected families earlier this month. An ecumenical group called Oekumene, which includes hundreds of Indonesian Christians, was among those donating aid supplies, he said. The group, based in Dili, was established in 2006 and is involved in various social activities such as helping poor families. "Oekumene is taking concrete action to help those in need," Father Duli said adding that aid supplies were also collected from individuals and local organisations. Father Duli said Caritas Dili as well as local government and businessmen are looking at ways to provide the families with an alternative source of income so that they do not have to rely solely on the land to survive. Both the business community and local government will be vital in this because "Caritas cannot do much because we don't have enough money," he said. Father Hermenigildo de Almeida of Our Lady of Fatima Parish on Atauro said the situation of the families on the island has become dire. "They will likely face a long period with little food if rain doesn't come soon."
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