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Australia provides health assistance to refugees in West Timor

Australia will provide $3 million to meet the emergency health needs of up to 140,000 East Timorese people still isolated in refugee camps in West Timor.

The Government is deeply concerned at reports that over 150 people, mostly children, have recently died in the Tuapukan camp. The World Health Organisation has warned that contaminated ground water sources and unhygienic conditions have contributed to the deteriorating health situation. Outbreaks of malaria and dengue fever are also anticipated, with the onset of the wet season.

East Timorese refugees are at grave risk of dying from preventable diseases. This Australian humanitarian assistance will assist local health authorities and international agencies to contain current health problems and prevent outbreaks in the future.

To address the immediate health problems, Australia will commit $760,000 to assist UNICEF with the deployment of mobile health units, which will provide basic health care and immunisation programs in the camps. The World Health Organisation (WHO) will also conduct a malaria control program in the environs of the camps with an Australian grant of $640,000.

To help prevent further outbreaks of communicable diseases, Australia will provide $400,000 for water and sanitation programs initiated by non-government organisations. These funds will supplement our previous commitment for relief assistance programs through these agencies.

In order to ensure that the health situation in the camps and surrounds is adequately monitored in the future, WHO will develop a health surveillance and epidemic response capacity with local health authorities, funded by $1.2 million, provided under the Australian Government's overseas aid programme.

Many of these interventions will have longer-term benefits for West Timorese communities as well as addressing the immediate needs of displaced East Timorese. This funding is part of Australia's overall commitment of $37 million in humanitarian assistance to the people of East Timor.

Media contacts: Innes Willox (Ministerial) 02 6277 7500 / 0419 206 890
Kirsten Hawke (AusAID) 02 6206 4971 / 0417 683 767