East Timor: UNICEF Humanitarian Appeal for Children and Women: 15 Oct 1999-Jun 2000



  • During the post-referendum violence, more than 75 per cent of the East Timorese population was displaced
  • Over 70 per cent of the province's private house stock, public buildings and utilities were destroyed
  • As of November 1999, an estimated 250,000 people hide in hills, waiting for presence of security
  • Of the displaced population forced to camps in West Timor, some 60 to 75 per cent are women and children
  • The multinational force, INTERFET, and humanitarian agencies deployed to establish immediate security


  • Provide immediate emergency relief.
  • Ensure the needs and rights of survival and protection of children and women as they return home.
  • Restore and develop the health system infrastructure and provide effective basic health services.
  • Prevent epidemics and other public health crises through appropriate hygiene promotion and water and sanitation interventions.
  • Provide psychosocial support by re-establishing basic education systems and recreational activities.
  • Promote adherence to humanitarian principles among humanitarian aid agencies.
  • Build the institutional capacity of the civil society to promote human rights and humanitarian principles.
  • Cooperate in the overall UN effort to establish a transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET).

In principles coherent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), UNICEF aims to assist families through the emergency stage, ensuring the rights of survival and protection of children and women, and to lay the basis for a longer-term development.

UNICEF has defined projects in four sectors to provide immediate assistance to women and children, to build or restore the local capacity of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and communities to define their needs and to take actions on their own behalf in the areas of health, water and sanitation, and education and psychosocial activities. As the overall UN effort to establish a transitional administration in East Timor (UNTAET) gathers momentum, efforts will also focus increasingly on establishing the capacity of the new national authorities to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate social services.


Water and Sanitation
Education and Community Action
Humanitarian Principles
Institutional Capacity-Building


During the post-referendum violence, more than 75 per cent of the entire population of East Timor was displaced and more than 70 per cent of the province's private housing stock, public buildings and utilities were destroyed. The crisis was further deepened when all government functions - including public services and law and order - collapsed with the departure of the Indonesian authorities. The vacuum in East Timor was filled in the immediate term by the deployment of the multinational force INTERFET and humanitarian agencies to establish a security presence throughout the province.

As of November 1999, it is estimated that some 250,000 East Timorese are still in West Timor, of which approximately 150,000 are likely to re-enter East Timor if given the choice to return voluntarily. Many still live in the hills due to precarious security, with deteriorating health and without shelter or food supplies. The condition of those in camps or returning from West Timor is believed to be moderate, as the camps are rudimentary, with limited access by humanitarian agencies.

In total, more than 400,000 displaced people in East Timor, including large numbers of children and women, require emergency assistance in the near future, as well as assistance to begin reconstruction and development activities in the medium term.


UNICEF has been working in East Timor since 1989 to improve the welfare of women and children under the maternal and child survival, development and protection programme. The programme has focused on service delivery, advocacy and social mobilization and capacity-building of local government and communities. Implementing partners have been the local government, international and national NGOs, including church-based and community-based organizations (CBOs).

In the first phase of the post-referendum emergency, UNICEF - with some 40 humanitarian agencies operating in East Timor - has assisted in meeting the acute needs of the most at-risk populations by distributing food and non-food emergency items, establishing health facilities and stabilizing populations through distributions of relief assistance. UNICEF lead a measles campaign in Dili on 19 October in partnership with Medecins sans Frontiers (MSF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), which reached 2,850 children under five years of age. Assessments of physical damage to health facilities, schools and other public service infrastructure, as well as nutritional surveys of children and women, are being carried out to build a quick yet comprehensive picture of current situation and needs.


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