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At a glance: Timor-Leste

President of Timor-Leste Xanana Gusmão launches UNICEF report ‘The State of the World’s Children 2006’

© Timor-Leste Photographers' Association/Vas
Timor-Leste President Xanana Gusmão (right) launches ‘The State of The World's Children 2006,’ with UNICEF Representative Shui-Meng Ng (left) on 15 December 2005.

By Bridgette See

DILI, Timor-Leste, 30 December 2005 – UNICEF’s flagship report ‘The State of the World’s Children 2006’ has received prominent attention in Timor-Leste this year. The country’s President, Xanana Gusmão, personally launched the report on 15 December 2005, lending a strong support to the efforts to improve the wellbeing of tens of thousands of Timorese children.

The State of the World’s Children 2006 focuses on the world’s most marginalised and excluded children, saying that millions of children in East Asia and the Pacific are falling through the cracks. For Timorese children, that means living in poverty, and suffering from gender discrimination, and a lack of education and care.

“I stay in the mountainous area in Dare and everyday when I go to work, I see many children who suffer from malnutrition, children who do not go to school, and children who lack clean water and basic health service,” said President Gusmão at the launch ceremony.

He pledged strong and immediate actions to improve the lives of these invisible children, and urged parents to take simple steps like giving their children birth registration and sending them to school.

© Timor-Leste Photographers' Association/Vas
President Gusmão points out that there are still many Timorese children who remain excluded and invisible and require urgent attention.

Emerging from a 24-year struggle for independence, Timor-Leste remains one of the poorest nations in the region. The country has the highest infant and maternal mortality rate in the entire East Asia and Pacific region. Nearly half of the children under five are suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition and less than a third of the country’s population have access to safe drinking water.

“The Timorese government and the agencies and NGOs working here must go beyond current development efforts to ensure that the most vulnerable children, especially those living in poorly serviced areas, are not left behind,” said UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste, Shui-Meng Ng.

In conjunction of this year’s theme - Excluded and Invisible - UNICEF invited the Timor-Leste Photographers’ Association to present a slideshow depicting the lives of the country’s children who are most marginalized and neglected. Entitled ‘Children at the Workplace’, the pictures showed children who are engaged in labour like selling cigarettes, working on buses, and washing cars.

Wrapping up the launch ceremony was a film made by filmmaker Max Stahl with support from UNICEF. The 12-minute film gave an overview of the lives of Timorese children, looking at the many challenges facing them, and the great strides that have been made by the Government, NGOs and other UN agencies in order to bring a better future to the country’s children.



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