The Australian Government has committed $13 million for shelter, repatriation, basic education and health, and malaria control and tuberculosis programs. These latest commitments are part of Australia's overall program of $37 million in humanitarian assistance to East Timor in 1999 - 2000.
70% of homes in East Timor need to be rebuilt. With the wet season taking hold, shelter is a priority. Australian funds have helped provide emergency shelter and returning refugees with kits containing a tarpaulin, rice, blankets and water containers. A further $5 million will be provided to UNHCR for additional resettlement kits and to start rebuilding houses with more permanent materials such as timber, roofing materials, nails and tools.
Australia is helping East Timorese children get back to school by providing $1.5 million through UNICEF's Education and Community Action project. This will help re-establish some form of normality to the children's disrupted lives, and teachers can help spread important peace-building messages which are vital to the reconciliation process.
East Timor's fragile health system collapsed during the crisis and the only hospital operating in Dili is struggling with demand. Australia is helping set up basic health services such as mobile clinics, immunisation and nutrition programs, and the training of traditional birth attendants by midwives, through UNICEF's Basic Health Care Project.
Scant data is available on the health status of the East Timorese which makes planning of future programs difficult. In response, the Australian Government has committed $1 million to WHO's health surveillance project which will help improve targeting of health programs.
Australia is providing $850,000 to fund the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Roll Back Malaria Project which provides people with mosquito nets dipped in repellent, and includes a public health education campaign to reduce breeding sites for mosquitos. WHO will also undertake studies to determine the location of resistant strains of the disease to ensure its malaria eradication project can be well-targeted. Australia will also provide $150,000 to WHO to initiate a tuberculosis program in conjunction with the Menzies School of Health Research in Darwin.
Australia is also helping East Timorese return home, by providing $3 million for the charter of ships and aircraft by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). To date, over 115,000 displaced East Timorese have returned from West Timor and other parts of Indonesia.
Bringing Families Back Together
Australia has helped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) bring families back together, through a vital tracing and family reunification program. Each day, people scan the noticeboard at the ICRC hospital in Dili for news of their loved ones. Some have been reunited but as over 75% of the population was displaced during the crisis, searches will take time. The Australian Government has committed a further $1 million so that this important program can continue.
Media contact: Jacinta Cubis (02) 6206 4967 / 0417 680 590