Timor-Leste is one of the least developed countries in the world, with levels of basic health, literacy and income similar to sub-Saharan Africa.
Why do we work in Timor-Leste?
Between 1975 and 1999, during the period of Indonesian occupation, approximately 100,000 to 250,000 East Timorese were killed. A UN-backed referendum resulted in a choice for independence, but anti-independence militias killed 1,400 Timorese and displaced 75 percent of the population before peacekeeping forces arrived. The violence left most of the country’s infrastructure, including housing, irrigation, drinking water systems, schools, government offices and almost the entire electricity grid destroyed.
Over the next seven years, reconstruction progressed, but internal unrest in 2006 led to the internal displacement of around 150,000 people, mostly in the capital Dili. Unresolved political and social tensions had contributed to the instability. Since 2007, the government has made progress on addressing these issues and progressing with development. The country has remained stable with generally peaceful elections and workable coalition governments.
The majority of East Timorese live in rural areas. Most are subsistence farmers with plots too small to support their families. Many households don’t have enough food to feed themselves all year round. Changing climate patterns and more intense weather phenomena such as El Nino has further increased the food insecurity in Timor-Leste.
Malaria and tuberculosis are common diseases in the country and low immunisation rates contribute to a high child mortality rate of 57 deaths per 1,000 live births.
The future of Timor-Leste remains challenging. Revenues from offshore oil and gas has been funding most of the government budget, including investments in the country’s development, but these are finite and declining resources. The task of building a sustainable diversified economy remains.
Our work in Timor-Leste
Caritas Australia is currently supporting two development programs - the Protection program and Sustainable livelihoods/DRR program. Caritas Australia partners and accompanies 22 local grassroots community organisations in four Municipalities to implement our programs supported with key relationships with the Catholic Church and Government of Timor-Leste.
Examples of our work
- The Sustainable Livelihoods program improves family incomes, food security, family nutrition, access to basic services as well as Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) for vulnerable communities in two municipalities: Manufahi and Oecusse. Program outcomes include increased agricultural productivity in both food and cash crops; improved animal husbandry; better access to markets; development of small business enterprises; better financial management at the family level and increased advocacy through the strengthening of community networks. The program also strengthens partner capacity in program management to better target the most vulnerable community groups.
- The Protection program enhances the protection for vulnerable groups including survivors of gender based violence, children and people living with disabilities. The program provides conflict resolution, legal, psycho-social and livelihoods support to survivors and community-level activities aimed at preventing violence. The program is primarily in two municipalities in Timor-Leste – Baucau and Viqueque, supported by national level advocacy activities.