UNICEF-FUNDED REPORT URGES ACTION ON CHILD ABUSE
Child abuse and commercial sexual exploitation of children in East Timor is an emerging problem that requires an integrated response from the police, teachers, civil society and community leaders, according to a UNICEF-funded study released today.
The study by the Program for Psychosocial Recovery and Development in East Timor (PRADET Timor Lorosa’e) documented 103 cases of child abuse during a one-month period of investigation in five of East Timor’s 13 districts. Approximately one-third of the cases were previously unreported.
“This case study, while not yet a representative picture of the country as a whole, is an important first step to highlight the scope of the problem in East Timor,” said Yoshiteru Uramoto, UNICEF’s representative in East Timor. “We need to determine the magnitude of child abuse and to develop strategies to prevent future abuse.”
In 60 per cent of the cases reported in the study, children were victims of sexual assault, physical violence or commercial sexual exploitation. Eighty-five per cent of the sexual assaults were against girls, and the general trend of child abuse suggests that the majority of offenders are young males who are often a member of the family or someone known to the victim.
“Despite being only preliminary, the report paints a disturbing picture of violence and abuse of children in East Timor, ” said PRADET Timor Lorosa’e coordinator Kristina Tang.
The study urged an integrated response from a wide variety of agencies, including police, lawyers, health and welfare professionals, teachers and local communities.
The PRADET Timor Lorosa’e study was carried out in collaboration with UNICEF, the Department of Social Services and Labour and UNTAET’s Human Rights Unit. Data was collected with the help of key agencies providing services to children such as places of sanctuary, health clinics, UN Police, NGOs, schools and government departments.
COUNCIL OF MINISTERS APPROVES HEALTH CARE PROPOSAL
The Council of Ministers has approved a Ministry of Health proposal to reconfigure the hospital system in East Timor over the next three years in order to best serve the population and maximise the health system’s limited resources.
The proposal calls for the rehabilitation of existing hospitals in Dili and Baucau districts, and for the construction of new hospitals in Oecussi, Maliana, Suai and Ainaro districts.
In addition, the proposal will result in the construction of 25 new community health centres throughout the country that will complement the 39 already in existence.
Funding for the rehabilitated hospitals and health centres will come from the Trust Fund for East Timor.
The proposal approved Wednesday was based on a series of hospital assessments conducted by the Ministry of Health and based on past discussions with health professional groups.
The Council on Tuesday also discussed details of the proposed 2002-2003 budget that will be finalized in the coming days ahead of the international donor’s conference to be held in Dili on 14-16 May.
RECONCILIATION COMMISSION FINDS REGIONAL COMMISSIONERS
The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor has finished its selection processes in a number of districts across the country for representatives to carry out its community-reconciliation and fact-finding work.
After conducting interviews and a community consultation process for candidates from the Manatuto, Baucau, Lospalos, Viqueque, Dili and Liquica districts, the Commission has selected its Regional Commissioners for its proposed Baucau and Dili offices.
The Commission finished its Regional Commissioner interview process in Oecussi district last week and in the next few days will conduct interviews for candidates from the remaining three districts of Suai, Maliana, and Aileu.
The Commission plans to conclude its Regional Commissioner selection process in the next few days.
The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor’s functions include: supporting the reintegration of less-serious offenders into their communities through community-based reconciliation mechanisms; documenting the nature of and reasons for human rights violations in East Timor between 1974 and 1999; and recommending ways to prevent future human rights violations and address the needs of the victims of violations.
The newly-selected Regional Commissioners will receive training and have work premises and support staff secured for them in the near future.