04 April 2009

UNMIT Statement for the Timor-Leste Development Partners' Meeting 2009 on National Priority 4: Social Services and Protection

Global financial and economic conditions demand that we strengthen our focus on further development of social services and social protection.

The international community, civil society and the Government remain committed to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and note the strong harmony between our efforts and those of the Government.

2008 saw rapid advances in social protection in Timor-Leste. 11,300 IDPs received Government to support their return or resettlement under the auspices of the National Recovery Strategy; almost 72,000 elderly or disabled citizens became entitled to a $20 monthly benefit payment; 7,000 female headed households benefited from a pilot of a conditional cash transfer programme; pensions were provided to over 2,000 veterans of the resistance; a Government-led multi-agency food security assessment resulted in the provision of needed food assistance to disaster-affected families; the National Disaster Risk Management Policy was passed.

We must now work together to consolidate these significant achievements. Have we done all we can to ensure the sustainable reintegration of the displaced? Is the budget allocation for the benefit payments to elderly and disabled secure for the years ahead? Do the civil servants who work on these programmes yet have the necessary skills and training to carry forward and refine them? Are administrative and financial oversight mechanisms in place to ensure that the large state budget allocated to social protection is spent in an effective and efficient way that to consider gender needs of women and men, girls and boys and place the beneficiaries at the centre of all initiatives?

UN assistance to the work of the Ministry of Social Solidarity and other relevant Government institutions going into 2009 will continue in the following key areas: processes of reintegration in communities affected by the 2006 crisis especially in the areas of dialogue, including improvements to community infrastructure, protection of women and children; technical advice on the development of conditional cash transfer programmes; enhancing resilience and preparedness at the community level for future natural or man made disasters, as presented in the UNDAF.

Social Services – Health. Strengthening of management of health systems and strengthening of health service deliveries at all levels are the key Government priorities in the area of social services and all UN Agencies have also identified these as their priority areas for support.

Planning and monitoring of health services require good data that is sex-disaggregated and the strengthening of the Health Management Information System has been identified as a national priority. UN Agencies and other Development partners are actively supporting the health sector in strengthening of both the regular data collection system, including surveillance and surveys, which will provide updated information, including gender sensitive data. The Government is planning to conduct a Demographic and Health Survey this year and a Census in 2010. Financial and human resources are needed to support the government in this endeavour that will provide information on the effectiveness of the Ministry of health programmes during the last 6 years

The Integrated Community Health Services, better known under its Portuguese accronym; SISCa, will expand access of comprehensive health services to the entire population and will result in improved health status, especially for children and pregnant women and to better control of major killer diseases, such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Malnutrition is still a very serious problem and interventions to improve the nutrition status of children and women must be given top priority.

Expansion of services require resources and we are happy to confirm, that much has been mobilized in order to support the health system, but more is needed and we are confident that with positive thinking and sufficient funding, we can strengthen our contribution to further strengthening of social services in Timor Leste.

Lack of capacity”, “lack of money” and “lack of this or that” are too often dominating our statements, but “lack of positive thinking” is probably worse that any other “Lack of..” We should all search for and identify possibilities for a healthy development process.

Image added by ETLJB: An elderly East Timorese man living in poverty.
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