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UNICEF calls for protection of schools and learning spaces in Timor Leste

DILI / TIMOR-LESTE, 10 August 2007 – UNICEF strongly condemns the destruction and vandalizing of schools, learning spaces and play areas during the ongoing unrest in certain parts of Timor-Leste.

“UNICEF is deeply concerned that children are once again the ones who suffer,” said Shui-Meng Ng, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste. ‘We urge the adults to consider the future of all their children before they continue their destruction of public properties and create further unrest. Without a safe environment, and without proper classrooms or learning spaces, all your children will be adversely impacted.’”

The school year started on 6 August, but learning has been disrupted in at least four districts. Reports from Baucau district indicate that at least three schools suffered damage to classrooms, while the child-friendly space run by a local non-governmental organization and supported by UNICEF, and where pre-school and youth programmes were conducted, was completely burnt down. As a result, all learning activities in the district have been suspended for fear of endangering schoolchildren.

Other districts such as Lautem, Liquica, and Manufahi also report similar threats and destruction of school buildings. A child-friendly space based in a camp for internally displaced persons in Dili was also vandalized yesterday.

UNICEF stresses that it is the right of every child to learn and to play. UNICEF urges the government, political leaders and all the people of Timor-Leste to create and maintain a peaceful and safe environment for children to protect their lives, their future and the future of the country.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 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 additional information, contact:

Mary Ann Q. Maglipon, UNICEF Timor-Leste, Tel.: +670-723-1103 Email: mmaglipon@unicef.org

Antonio Gomes, UNICEF Timor-Leste, Tel.: +670-723-2441 Email: angomez@unicef.org




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