Sanitation in East TimorEast Timor is a Southeast Asian country that is located on the eastern half of the island of Timor. Detrimental health and sanitation in the country, alongside the household effects of unsanitary water management, have notably impacted East Timor’s agricultural-based economy. Sanitation in East Timor has thus become vital to national rehabilitation projects.

East Timor has a long history of colonial and other foreign occupation; however, the nation has been independent since 2002. From the point of liberation in 2002 until 2008, the country experienced violent policing and political upheaval. This came as a result of unrest regarding national security. Instability led to the involvement of an Australian-led International Stabilization Force (ISF) and the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT). These peacekeeping forces remained active in East Timor until 2008 when rebels within the country lost power. Since 2008, the country has experienced steadiness in national security, presidential guidance and rebuilding of important infrastructure like sanitation.

10 Facts About Sanitation in East Timor

  1. The stabilization of governance within East Timor has enabled rectification of sanitation infrastructure. After East Timor gained independence in 2002, economic destabilization had a lasting impact on the country’s ability to invest in renovating sanitation infrastructure. Oil revenue in the country, along with agricultural revenue, has struggled to increase over the past 15 years. In addition to governmental stabilization, aid from multiple international programs supports sanitation development in East Timor.
  2. East Timor’s governmental efforts to address water sanitation have stabilized urban access to clean drinking water. Of the 1.18 million people living in East Timor, 30% of the population lives in urban centers. The 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for sanitation in East Timor was set at 75% improved access to water sources and 55% improved sanitation. In terms of the urban population, just 9% live without access to improved water sources; 27% live without access to improved sanitation. As of 2015, sanitation in East Timor’s urban areas had reached MDG targets.
  3. Sanitation in East Timor’s rural regions is a work in progress. While urban water sanitation initiatives to reach MDG targets have successfully brought clean drinking water and waste management to urban cities, the remaining 70% of the population of the country is often without reliable access. Data shows that 40% of the rural population remains without access to clean water sources and 70% without improved sanitation. Because MDG goals were not met in rural East Timor, governmental plans for extending access to sanitary water into rural parts of the country have been implemented with the goal of completion by 2030.
  4. Reconfiguration of irrigation infrastructure is key to increased crop output from rural workers. Stabilization of irrigation consists of routing water from the river weirs to crop fields. In addition, it also includes the management of crop flooding as a result of natural disasters within the country. The importance of an updated irrigation system is central to the stabilization of the agro-based rural economy of East Timor.
  5. Rural agricultural workers have experienced personal benefits from the restoration of sanitation infrastructure. Because 70% of the population lives in rural regions of East Timor, agricultural-based livelihoods dominate the workforce. Nearly 42% of rural farmers live in poverty and rely on independent subsistence practices for food. Not only does crop output better the independent livelihood of agricultural workers, but it also provides a source of sustainable local subsistence.
  6. While education represents 10% of the overall GDP expenditure in East Timor, many schools continue to lack access to sanitary water. According to UNICEF, 60% of primary schools and middle schools have access to improved water sources, though 30% do not have access to functioning waste facilities. UNICEF is implementing a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program in order to create sustainable community habits of maintaining waste facilities. This initiative is expected to increase community sanitary habits, health and enrollment rates throughout the country.
  7. Bringing a sanitary water supply to health outposts in rural East Timor has been a focus of the country’s health administrators. Around 50% of rural health centers are without access to clean water. In response, the WASH program from UNICEF is working locally to improve sanitation in health centers. WaterAid is working with local health facilities to improve maternal health outcomes by providing resources for sanitary reproduction.
  8. The Ministry of Health in East Timor has set a goal to entirely alleviate the issue of open defecation across the country by the end of 2020. UNICEF statistics show that around 170 communities, along with a 21,000-household municipality, have been open-defecation free with the organization’s support.
  9. Diarrhea-related deaths have decreased as a result of improved water sanitation in East Timor. Data shows that diarrhea-related deaths decreased by 30.7% between 2007 and 2017. With UNICEF’s WASH program, the incidence of chronic diarrhea will decrease as poor water sanitation is resolved. UNICEF is focused on alleviating poor quality drinking water in five rural municipalities in particular.
  10. Childhood malnutrition rates related to water sanitation in East Timor decreased by 1%. World Bank data from 2013 claims that just over 50% of children in East Timor were stunted in growth as a result of malnutrition; in 2014, reports showed that 49.2% of children had signs of stunted growth. In a single year, steady improvement to water sanitation within the country decreased rates of childhood malnutrition.

Lilia Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, is a nation that occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor in Southeast Asia. With a population of 1.26 million people, Timor-Leste is one of the least populated countries in Asia. The Portuguese originally colonized the country in 1520. After declaring independence in 1975, Indonesia invaded the nation, which occupies the western half of the island. The Indonesian invasion brought violence, famine and disease to Timor-Leste, resulting in a large loss in population. After a majority of the Timorese population voted to become independent in 1999, Indonesia relinquished control and Timor-Leste moved under the supervision of the United Nations. The nation officially became independent in 2002, making it one of the newest nations in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste outline the rapid improvement the country has made since Indonesian occupation and the issues it still needs to overcome.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Timor-Leste

  1. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased from 32.6 years in 1978 to 69.26 years in 2018, matching that of South Asia. The consistent improvement in life expectancy in the past decade is primarily due to the Ministry of Health’s public health interventions. Such interventions include the reconstruction of health facilities, expansion of community-based health programs and an increase in medical graduates in the workforce.
  2. Life expectancy in Timor-Leste increased despite a drop in GDP, which decreased from $6.67 billion in 2012 to $2.6 billion in 2018. However, Timor-Leste’s GDP rose by 2.8% from 2017 to 2018. Continued improvement in GDP and economic progress in the nation will only serve to increase life expectancy by providing more opportunities for employment, education and improved quality of life.
  3. Tuberculosis was the highest cause of death in 2014, causing 14.68% of deaths. In 2014, estimates determined that Timor-Leste had the highest prevalence of tuberculosis in Southeast Asia, and 46% of people with tuberculosis did not receive a diagnosis in 2017. Maluk Timor, an Australian and Timorese nonprofit committed to advancing primary health care, provides a service through which team members visit Timorese households to locate undiagnosed patients and raise awareness about the severity of tuberculosis in the community. The organization collaborates with the National TB Program and aims to eliminate suffering and deaths in Timor-Leste due to diseases that Australia, which is only one hour away, had already eliminated.
  4. Communicable diseases caused 60% of deaths in 2006 but decreased to causing 45.6% of deaths in 2016. While diseases such as tuberculosis and dengue fever remain a public health challenge, the incidence of malaria drastically declined from over 200,000 cases in 2006 to no cases in 2018 due to early diagnoses, quality surveillance, funding from The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and support from the World Health Organization.
  5. The adult mortality rate decreased from 672.2 deaths per 1,000 people in 1977 to 168.9 deaths per 1,000 people in 2018. Additionally, the infant mortality rate decreased from 56.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008 to 39.3 infant deaths per 1,000 live births in 2018. While public health interventions and disease prevention contributed to the decrease in the adult mortality rate, Timor-Leste needs to expand access to maternal health services in rural areas to continue to improve the infant mortality rate.
  6. Maternal mortality decreased from 796 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1998 to 142 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2017. The leading cause of the high maternal mortality rate is poor access to reproductive health services, as only 43% of women had access to prenatal care in 2006. While the Ministry of Health continues to expand access to maternal health care through mobile health clinics that reach over 400 rural villages, only 30% of Timorese women gave birth with a health attendant present in 2013. Even as access increases, challenges such as family planning services, immunization, treatment for pneumonia and vitamin A supplementation remain for mothers in rural communities.
  7. The violent crisis for independence in 1999 destroyed more than 80% of health facilities. Despite rehabilitation efforts to rebuild the health system, many facilities at the district level either have limited or no access to water. However, the number of physicians per 1,000 people improved from 0.1 in 2004 to 0.7 in 2017. The capacity of the health care system is also improving, as UNICEF supports the Ministry of Health in providing increased training for health care workers in maternal and newborn issues and in striving to improve evidence-based public health interventions.
  8. Timor-Leste has one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world. At least 50% of children suffered from malnutrition in 2013. Additionally, in 2018, 27% of the population experienced food deprivation. USAID activated both the Reinforce Basic Health Services Activity and Avansa Agrikultura Project from 2015-2020 to address the capacity of health workers to provide reproductive health care and the productivity of horticulture chains to stimulate economic growth in poor rural areas. Both projects aim to combat malnutrition by addressing prenatal health and encouraging a plant-based lifestyle that fuels the economy.
  9. Motherhood at young ages and education levels are key contributors to malnutrition, as 18% of women began bearing children by the age of 19 in 2017. Teenage girls are far more likely to experience malnourishment than older women in Timor-Leste, contributing to malnutrition in the child and therefore lowering life expectancy for both mother and child. As a result of malnutrition, 58% of children under 5 suffered from stunting in 2018. Additionally, findings determined that stunting levels depended on the wealth and education level of mothers. In fact, 63% of children whose mothers did not receive any formal education experienced stunting, while the number dropped to 53% in children whose mothers received a formal education.
  10. Education enrollment rates are increasing, as the net enrollment rate in secondary education increased from 40.5% in 2010 to 62.7% in 2018. Completion of secondary education links to higher life expectancy, especially in rural areas. Since 2010, Timor-Leste has increased spending on education. Additionally, local nonprofit Ba Futuru is working to train teachers to promote quality learning environments in high-need schools. After Ba Futuru worked with schools for nine months, students reported less physical punishment and an increase in innovative and engaging teaching methods in their classrooms. The organization serves over 10,000 students and provides scholarships for school supplies for hundreds of students. With more programs dedicated to increasing enrollment and the classroom environment, students are more likely to complete secondary education and increase both their quality of life and life expectancy.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Timor-Leste indicate an optimistic trend. Although malnutrition, disease and adequate access to health care remain prevalent issues in Timor-Leste, the nation’s life expectancy has rapidly increased since Indonesian occupation and has steadily improved its education and health care systems since its founding in 2002. To continue to improve life expectancy, Timor-Leste should continue to focus its efforts on improving public health access and community awareness in poor rural areas, and particularly to emphasize maternal health services to reduce both maternal and infant mortality rates. Despite being one of the newest nations in the world, Timor-Leste shows promise and progress.

Melina Stavropoulos
Photo: Flickr

women’s empowerment in Timor-LesteWomen’s empowerment in Timor-Leste has been a serious agenda since the nation gained independence from Indonesian occupation in 2002. The occupation left 70 percent of the nation’s infrastructure in shambles and most of its inhabitants displaced.

The small island suffers from one of the highest poverty rates in Asia as well as high levels of malnutrition. Women in Timor-Leste face challenges including poverty, gender-based violence and a lack of opportunities to be seen as community leaders.

The country’s government, as well as outside groups, is working to make sure that these issues are addressed. It is imperative that women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste is a top priority as the country seeks to provide a better future for all its inhabitants.

When Timor-Leste became an independent nation, a Gender and Constitution Working Group was formed with support from U.N. Women. This group was tasked with making sure that gender equality and women’s empowerment would be an integral part of Timor-Leste’s new constitution.

Because of the Gender and Constitution Working Group’s efforts, gender equality is included in Timor-Leste’s constitution, as well as a provision declaring that all citizens must be given equal opportunity in the social and political sphere. Due in no small part to these policies, Timor-Leste now has the largest percentage of women in political positions in the Asia Pacific Region.

A report by Mercy Corps found that increasing women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste helped to reduce childhood malnutrition and improve children’s health. Mercy Corps reported that when women have control over household finances, they are more likely to use funds to benefit themselves and their children. Similarly, when women have increased decision-making power they are more likely to make an expedient decision to get a sick child the care they need.

Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) is another organization that supports women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste. According to AVID senior program officer Alita Verdial, the nation’s “patriarchal society means that women do not have sufficient respect and resources to allow them to make their own decisions.” The organization is combatting these problems by providing volunteers to support local workers in areas such as human rights, education and economic empowerment.

Timor-Leste is a young country which faces many challenges. Women in the country do not yet have equal opportunity in the social, economic or political spheres. But key policies have been implemented to make sure women have equal protection under the law, and international programs are working to support the country’s women.

If Timor-Leste’s government and humanitarian organizations can continue to make women’s empowerment in Timor-Leste a priority, there is hope that the country will have a freer and more equitable future.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr

development projects in Timor-LesteTimor-Leste is a small country home to 1.29 million people on the eastern part of the island of Timor, shared with Indonesia. After 400 years under Portuguese rule, the country gained independence in 1975, only to be invaded by Indonesia nine days later. Over 150,000 Timorese died during 24 years of Indonesian occupation until a U.N.-backed referendum in 1999 led to independence in 2002. Fifteen years later, the United Nations missions have ended and the country is aiming to stand on its own two feet. These are five development projects in Timor-Leste:

  1. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Avansa Agrikultura (Forward Agriculture) project: Partnering with businesses in the private sector and with three government ministries including the Agriculture Ministry, USAID is promoting climate-friendly agricultural practices to increase food production and income in five municipalities across the country, including the capital. The $19.2 million project supports women’s empowerment and agricultural development projects in Timor-Leste, seeking to improve nutrition in Dili and beyond.
  2. The World Bank’s Sustainable Agricultural Productivity Improvement project: The World Bank’s agricultural project targets smallholders in Timor-Leste’s agricultural industry, encouraging the formation of community-based development plans. The World Bank is committing $21 million to development projects in Timor-Leste in partnership with the Agriculture Ministry to promote sustainable technologies in watershed agriculture.
  3. The World Bank’s Road Climate Resilience project: Coffee is one of Timor-Leste’s most well-known and important exports, popularizing the country’s name overseas and supporting development projects in Timor-Leste itself. As climate change begins to threaten small island nations, the World Bank is investing $20 million in a project to build climate-resilient roads and infrastructure in Timor-Leste’s coffee-producing regions, including in the corridor between Dili and the southwestern town of Ainaro.
  4. The Asian Development Bank’s Technical Assistance Special Fund: Through its Technical Assistance Special Fund, the Asian Development Bank is providing grants to help Timorese youth enter the country’s lucrative coffee industry. A $225,000 grant from the fund will contribute to a plan to develop the country’s coffee industry and create more jobs for local youth, collaborating with the Agriculture Ministry and the Timor-Leste Coffee Association to establish development projects in Timor-Leste.
  5. The World Bank’s Community Empowerment and Local Governance Project: Beyond agriculture, the backbone of the Timorese economy, foreign donors have been supporting development projects in Timor-Leste that seek to improve local governance and institutions. Between 2002 and 2005, in the first years of Timor-Leste’s independence, the World Bank committed $23 million to build responsive institutions that helped reduce poverty and support current initiatives for sustainable growth and economic development.

With these five development projects in Timor-Leste, the nation will be closer to a sustained and shared prosperity for all its people.

– Giacomo Tognini

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in East TimorThe situation in Timor Leste (East Timor) has been characterized by war and oppression for decades. In 1975, after Portuguese colonialism finally abdicated control of the region, there began a brutal war between the people of Timor Leste and neighboring Indonesia.

The war resulted in a 24-year Indonesian occupation of Timor Leste, and a cumulative death toll of 200,000 people – nearly one-quarter of the current population. Throughout the country’s occupation, there were guerilla movements working to remove Indonesia from power. However, the final decision to leave Timor Leste to its own devices came after a change of leadership occurred in Indonesia and U.N. intervention.

The Timorese voted for independence in 1999 – the result was a 78 percent majority. Unfortunately, the vote was far from respected. Those who did not wish to be independent of Indonesia instigated yet another insurgency against the majority of Timorese, necessitating more direct United Nations involvement. Finally, in 2002, after two years of U.N. Peacekeeping presence, full independence was attained.

However sweet this victory may have been, it did little to alleviate the problems of poverty, malnutrition and hunger in East Timor. Hunger is arguably the country’s most urgent problem. It affects nearly 100 percent of the population.

In 2010, 57.7 percent of children under the age five were classified as stunting, a term used to describe the condition of weighing too little for your height. Other indicators of malnutrition, such as wasting and generally being underweight, are prevalent, indicating that the situation is dire.

One of the many organizations working to mitigate the effects of hunger in East Timor is Oxfam Australia. The work they do is primarily aimed at educating the public, generally women and children, about the effects of malnutrition and specific ways to increase their family’s consumption of important nutrients.

In classes that they term “supplementary feeding courses,” they demonstrate how to cook nutritious meals, process fresh food so it lasts longer and which ingredients have the highest protein content.

This program, coupled with the organization’s efforts to work with local farmers on improving agricultural yields for their farming cooperatives, has been a formidable attempt to arm Timorese communities with life-saving nutritional and agricultural knowledge.

-Katarina Schrag

Photo: Flickr

 

Poverty Rate in East TimorEast Timor is one of the youngest countries in the world. Located in eastern Asia, the Independent Republic of Timor- Leste declared independence in 2002. Since then, the oil-dependent economy has grown rapidly and the government has worked to create institutions and provide services. East Timor has funded development by rerouting money from its petroleum fund, which collects profits from the petroleum-based economy. The government distributed these funds through its budget. East Timor created the Strategic Development Plan to guide its work from 2011 to 2030. Despite the government’s focused work, much of the country still lives in poverty.

What is the poverty rate in East Timor?
A reported 41.8 percent of the population in East Timor lives below the national poverty line. There is also immense income inequality in East Timor. In 2006, the poorest two-fifths of the population accounted for 18 percent of the country’s expenditure and the wealthiest two-fifths of the population accounted for 66 percent of the spending. Poverty rates are highest in rural areas.

How has the poverty rate changed?
In 2001, the poverty rate in East Timor was 36.3 percent. In 2007, the poverty rate rose to 49.9 percent. The poverty rate increased from 2001 to 2007 because the part of the economy not based on petroleum decreased. The non-petroleum economy must increase in order for the poverty rate in East Timor to decline. In addition, some of the initial elections in the country were violent and chaotic, which can cause poverty and instability.

What are some of the causes of poverty in East Timor?
As a young country, East Timor has had to rapidly create many institutions. The expanding population is placing pressure on the already limited job market. Many people in East Timor are unemployed. In addition, the transition from Indonesian occupation was chaotic and violent. A significant amount of infrastructure in the country was destroyed or damaged during this transition. These damages have hurt the operation of the economy and the government has had to fund repair projects.

How can the government reduce the poverty rate in East Timor?
The government needs to make plans to diversify the economy. In addition, the country needs to improve healthcare and education services. The population needs to gain industry skills so that the economy can expand and diversify. Programs should be designed to target young people; 60 percent of the population is under 25, and they are the future workforce. The government should also encourage private investment. Finally, as a new country, East Timor must continue strengthening its national and regional institutions.

While East Timor has quite a long way to go, it has also seen many successes, mainly in healthcare and education. The population has an increased life expectancy and a reduced child mortality since 2002. School enrollment and literacy have increased since the country gained independence. East Timor also eliminated leprosy since its inception. The poverty rate in East Timor should continue to decline due to the government’s focused work.

Sarah Denning

Photo: Flickr

east timor
East Timor has produced its first feature film, which exposes the dire events of the country’s 24-year Indonesian occupation and the role of women in the nation’s struggle for independence. The film, “A Guerra da Beatriz” or “Beatriz’s War” is the story of a young woman’s fight to reveal the truth about her husband in the midst of his disappearance during a brutal massacre by Indonesian troops and his subsequent return. With the violence of the invasion as a backdrop, the film depicts a woman’s inner battle to remain true to her two loves: her country and her husband.

The film has a similar plot design as the 1982 French film, “The Return of Martin Guerre,” which portrays a historical case of a 16th-century soldier who returns from war and is no longer recognized by his community.

The main character, Beatriz, is a girl growing up in the mountains of East Timor in 1975 when the Indonesian invasion commences. Beatriz is married at the age of 11 to a young boy and, as the destruction of the occupation ensues, Beatriz becomes a resistance fighter to defend her nation. After her husband vanishes amid the 1983 Kraras Massacre, she continues her crusade against Indonesian forces. The reunion with her presumably dead spouse 16 years later ignites sentiments of longing that are further complicated by suspicions surrounding his identity.

The majority of those involved in the film have strong personal connections to East Timor’s brutal history. The actors and crew, including thousands of extras, have all had relatives lost during the war and have witnessed the torture and murder of family and community members.

The film was co-directed by East-Timorese filmmaker Bety Reis, who also plays the part of Beatriz’s mother. Reis co-founded East Timor’s first film and television production house, Dili Film Works, in 2010 and is its acting director. At the age of 16, Reis witnessed first hand the killing and rape of her fellow countrymen by the Indonesian military. Reis claims that she came very close to execution and is thankful that she was spared, allowing her to create a film which could inform the world about her country’s bloody past.

“Beatriz’s War” completed its production in 2013, mainly funded through crowd sourcing campaigns, and is now in limited release in Australian theaters. The film was awarded the Golden Peacock award for Best Film at the 44th International Film Festival of India in 2013 and was screened at the International Film Festival of Adelaide. In early 2014, the film competed in both the Bryon Bay International Film Festival and the Big Picture Film festival in Sydney, Australia.

The rise of East Timorese cinema marks an important step in the country’s cultural development. The growth of the nation’s culture was severely stunted by the impacts of the recent war with Indonesia. As more of the country’s citizens emerge with creative narratives that illustrate East Timor’s rich history, the world will benefit from gaining insight to the strengths and triumphs of a newly minted nation.

-Talia Langman

Sources: Dili Film Works, Sunday Morning Herald, Mount Holyoke
Photo: Timor Leste Merkeda