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UNICEF responds with aid for families still displaced in Timor-Leste

As the date for national exams approach, UNICEF works to provide education, clean water and access to health services for thousands of children

DILI, 9 June, 2006 - Around 66,000 people are housed in more than 35 camps in Dili, and the number of camps and internally displaced people changes daily as the crisis in the capital stretches into its third month.  The internally displaced population currently represents about 40 per cent of Dili’s population of 170,000. 

With 60 per cent of Timor-Leste’s population under 18, it is estimated that around half the camp population in Dili are children and adolescents.  UNICEF estimates that up to 56,000 school-aged children throughout Timor-Leste have been displaced in the current crisis.  Most schools remain closed in Dili.  Some schools in outlying districts have stopped functioning while others struggle to cope with the arrival of thousands of children from Dili.  A major concern is the national exams, scheduled to run 3-9 July.  If students at the IDP camps are unable to sit the exams, it is not known whether they will be forced to repeat a year or be able to move to the next grade.  UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education to address this issue.

Although the security situation has improved considerably with the deployment of international troops in key positions around Dili, tensions remain high and there are no signs of people returning to their homes.  Often, men leave their families behind in the camps to guard their houses at night, raising security concerns for women and children who are largely left by themselves.

Food from government warehouses, water and non-food items are being delivered daily to IDP camps in the city in a coordinated effort involving the government, UN agencies and local and international NGOs.  Medical assistance from temporary 24-hour clinics and mobile clinics is also being provided at many sites, but with people living in cramped conditions under emotional duress and many still lacking adequate water, food and sanitation, disease is a continuing threat.  Patients are seeking medical care for acute respiratory infections, diarrhea and for skin diseases; however, there has been no major outbreak of disease in the camps.

UNICEF has played a lead role in water, sanitation and hygiene activities in IDP camps in Dili and is working with the Ministry of Health to launch a mass measles vaccination campaign on 13 June, targeting all children aged 6 months to 14 years.  UNICEF has ordered 162 school-in-a-box kits that will be used to jumpstart education in many more camps and in Don Bosco camp, the largest in Dili with around 13,000 people, classes have begun with basic stationery and supplies provided by UNICEF.  Working with key partners, UNICEF is establishing additional safe spaces in the camps for education and recreational activities for children.

Districts outside of the capital are also in urgent need of help to cope with the influx of people fleeing the violence.  Around 70,000 people from Dili are scattered throughout the country, most living with extended/host families and 6,000 in nine camps set up in the districts.  Access to the 10 districts outside of Dili has been difficult, with many areas all but cut off. Families who have left the capital and some host families also require access to basic health and sanitation services and safe spaces for children.

UNICEF Response

Water, sanitation and hygiene
UNICEF has played a lead role in water, sanitation and hygiene activities in IDP camps in Dili and to date has supplied 50 latrines which are used by at least 12,500 people daily.  It has also distributed 20,000 jerry cans with a storage capacity of 200,000 litres, allowing each person to store at least 3 litres per day of drinking water.

UNICEF has also supplied 6,300 litres of bottled water and 120 kg of detergent to the camps.  During assessments, UNICEF has tested water quality in 7 camps.  As part of its mission to prevent the outbreak of water-borne diseases in the camps, UNICEF has hired a local solid waste management company for rubbish collection, the cleaning of septic tanks/pat latrines and drainage.  All the IDP camps in Dili will be covered by this system. 

Health and Nutrition
A top priority is the prevention of major outbreaks of vaccine-preventable and water-borne diseases in the camps, particularly measles and diarrhoea.  UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Health to launch a mass measles vaccination campaign on 13 June, targeting all children aged 6 months to 14 years also provide vitamin A supplementation for children under 5.

UNICEF is providing tetanus vaccines and vitamin A supplies for mobile antenatal services, which started on 7 June in the most densely-populated camps.  In Timor-Leste, malnutrition has been a problem due to the large size of families and low levels of food security.  UNICEF will conduct nutritional assessments, provide therapeutic milk to severely malnourished children and complementary feeding in coordination with the World Food Programme.

UNICEF is working on establishing safe spaces within the IDP camps for providing primary school education and non-formal education for children with support from teachers and Parent Teacher Association members. These spaces will also be used for psychosocial and peace-building activities.

Child Protection
Due to the conditions in the camps, children are at heightened risk of violence, abuse and neglect.  Cases of children separated from their parents have been reported and the identification of such children continues. 

UNICEF, Plan International and the Ministry of Labour and Community Reinsertion - members of the Working Group on Child Protection - have conducted rapid assessments in 12 IDP camps in Dili.  UNICEF has ordered 105 recreational kits which will be used in tandem with peace-building and conflict-resolution activities.  Further prevention and protection interventions addressing violence against children including sexual violence will be undertaken in collaboration with UNFPA and UNHCR. It is estimated that at least 30,000 children in the camps and their families will benefit from child protection support.


For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For more information, please contact:
Shui-Meng Ng, Representative, UNICEF, Timor-Leste, Tel. +670 723 1097,sng@unicef.org
Madhavi Ashok, Communication Officer, UNICEF, Timor-Leste, Tel: +670 723 1103, mashok@unicef.org




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