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Timor-Leste: Background

This map does not reflect a position by UNICEF on the legal status of any country or territory or the delimitation of any frontiers.
On 20 May 2002, East Timor (or Timor Lorosa'e - the Tetum name for the area) became the world's newest country. This long-awaited event occurred following East Timor's first presidential elections, held in April 2002.  Turnout was estimated at 86 per cent of registered voters.

The struggle for independence resulted in the destruction of the physical infrastructure of the country. Up to 70 per cent of all buildings were damaged, including the great majority of government structures (offices, schools, health centres, etc).

Human capital was likewise removed from the country. More than 250,000 people left during the violence, and around 100,000 remain outside the country. These include most of the experienced managers during the Indonesian administration, as well as senior staff from schools, hospitals and other government services.  Educational, medical and other services will have to be established to respond to the needs of the Timorese.

Health services were partially restored during 2000-2001, but they remain inadequate. Infant mortality is estimated at 85 per 1,000 live births, and the maternal mortality ratio is 800 per 100,000 live births. Child morbidity is high, due mainly to infectious and parasitic diseases and persistent malnutrition. In the late 1990s, 45 per cent of children under five years old were underweight, and many suffered from vitamin A and iron deficiencies. Many women are also anaemic, increasing the risk of haemorrhage during delivery. A lack of trained birth attendants and poor access to emergency obstetric care aggravate the situation. More than 80 per cent of births take place in the home, and there is a high incidence of low birth weight, although the actual level is unknown.

The basic infrastructure for immunization has been re-established, but coverage remains low. Awareness of the benefits of immunization is weak and drop-out rates are high. Coverage with the anti-tuberculosis (BCG) vaccine, for example, reached 70 per cent in 2001, whereas only about one third of the target group was reached with all three doses of polio and combined diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus vaccines. UNICEF estimates that approximately 20 per cent of the rural population have access to safe water and 10 per cent to adequate sanitation facilities. Nearly all schools have required significant repairs to latrine and water facilities following the crisis.


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