Mr. de Mello signed agreements for the repair of roads in Ermera District, and the training of farmers in long-term rice production in six East Timorese districts. The projects, totalling about $1 million, will be funded by the Government of Norway.
The road repair project is expected to create about 100 jobs for East Timorese workers in its first phase. De Mello said the agreement represents the first United Nations approval of projects in East Timor that are "directly related to reconstruction and rehabilitation." East Timor is currently administered by the United Nations Transitional Authority in East Timor (UNTAET). Yesterday's signing ceremony was attended by Nobel Laureate Jose Ramos Horta and representatives of the Norwegian Government and UNDP.
Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that malnutrition is affecting 25 per cent of refugee children under the age of five in Belu, West Timor, home to an estimated 100,000 East Timorese refugees, of whom approximately 15 per cent are children under five.
Since malnutrition rates at or above 15 per cent are considered by the UN to be a serious nutritional emergency, UNICEF plans to expand its distribution of Vitadele, a micronutrient-fortified food, and work closely with the Indonesian government to improve rice distribution and increase general food rations.