UNICEF continues extensive humanitarian work in the wake of the conflict that threatened to destroy the province of East Timor following free elections in which the province's people chose independence from Indonesia. UNICEF's efforts on behalf of children and women have run a gamut, from a massive vaccination campaign to nuts-and-bolts work to repair water systems, provide needed medical aid and supplies, enhance nutrition and achieve normalization of education in the province.
Though the vote in East Timor was overwhelmingly for independence, extreme opposition from militia groups led to massive destruction and the displacement of some 250,000 people to West Timor and still more hundreds of thousands to the hills around the villages and urban settlements of East Timor.
Only the arrival of an international peacekeeping force and subsequent establishment of a temporary United Nations governing body (UNTAET) kept the situation from escalating into a Kosovo-like disaster. Since mid-September, 1999, people have returned from West Timor and from the hills around the capital city of Dili and elsewhere. But substantial challenges to the wellbeing of women and children remain throughout the region and UNICEF continues to be active in both both West and East Timor.
While security in East Timor remains good, UN staff in Dili have been asked to take "sensible precautions to ensure the safety of themselves and their belongings" due to a noted increase in crime and civil disorder, based on incidents between rival gangs and unauthorized entry of homes of international staff working for NGOs or the UN.
In a demonstration held in front of the UNTAET office on 5 January, protesters sought increases in wages, better youth employment generation opportunities, improved food distribution and accelerated delivery of shelter materials. Because unemployment remains a major concern, UNTAET has launched a one million US$ Quick Impact Project.
As of 7 January, a total of 127,088 displaced persons had returned to East Timor from the western border.
A UNICEF survey in the Belu District of West Timor has found that an estimated 25 per cent of refugee children under the age of five are suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition. UNICEF is responding by expanding its dirtribution of Vitadele, a micronutrient-fortified complementary food. In addition to its office in Jakarta, UNICEF maintains two field offices in West Timor. The UNICEF country team there currently supports a supplementary feeding programme that reaches some 7,000 at-risk children from among the refugee population. That programme will be expanded, with special emphasis on the needs of children aged 6 to 24 months.
UNICEF has developed a consolidated national Database on Primary School as a basis for distribution of food to teachers for school feeding for students and for payment of teacher incentives. This Database is in high demand by other international/national agencies undertaking education activities in East Timor.
Other activities include efforts to ensure an adequate level of pay for teachers, supplying UNICEF's School-in-a-Box and recreational/sporting kits, and distribution of building materials for the rehabilitation of approximately 90 schools. Primary Teacher Training began on 10 January in Dili and follow-up training will continue throughout the year, moving to cluster schools at district and sub-district level.
A UNICEF supported team of 18 nurses from the Lahane nursing school has continued measles immunization. As of 7 January, a total of 45,111 children had been immunized.
Water and Sanitation
Close to 150 handpumps have been installed, each pump serving an average of 3-4 families. Handpumps and other materials were also provided to the Christian Children's Fund (CCF) for installation in Fatumeta and Fatuhada villages in the outskirts of Dili. Water and Sanitation supplies were also provided to Action Contre la Faim in Manatuto district.
Child Rights and Protection
UNICEF has concluded a contract with Christian Children's Fund (CCF) to establish the Komoro Child and Youth Centre (KCYC) and extend services to women and children affected by the recent violence. This centre will provide a safe and friendly environment for children up to 18 years old.
For more information on UNICEF, visit its website at http://www.unicef.org