21 December 2008

East Timor Minister of Social Solidarity provides update on work of MSS during 2008

MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY PRESS RELEASE 19 December 2008 Minister of Social Solidarity provides update on work of MSS during 2008

On 19 December 2008, the Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, provided an update about the work of the Ministry of Social Solidarity during 2008. The Minister said “during 2008 the MSS has worked hard to improve the lives of many of the vulnerable groups within Timor-Leste, including: veterans, widows, people with disabilities, orphans, ex-prisoners, IDPs, and victims of natural disasters.”

Under the National Recovery Strategy, Hamutuk Hari’i Futuru, MSS has assisted more than 11,000 families to return to, and rebuild, their homes. The Ministry has assisted IDPs from 49 camps to return home (14 camps remain open in Dili and Baucau). More than $25.5 million has been distributed by MSS for recovery/reintegration packages. In the past two weeks MSS has assisted IDPs to return home from Igreja Becora, Canossa Lecidere, and Igreja Motael. It is anticipated that the remaining 14 camps will be closed by mid February 2009.

Since they commenced work in July 2008, the MSS/UNDP Dialogue Teams have organised 14 community dialogues in Dili, Ermera and Baucau. The MSS/UNDP dialogue teams promote dialogue as a means to addressing community conflict. They have also conducted more than 200 mediations in support of IDP reintegration and return.

On 15 July 2008 MSS commenced payments to veterans and ex-combatants of the National Liberation. These pensions are the first monetary recognition of the contribution of these people to the independence of Timor-Leste. The value of the pensions ranges from $85 to $550 per month depending on the number of years served in the resistance. Widows, orphans, parents or siblings of those who died due to participation in the struggle are also entitled to receive a monthly pension of between $120 and $200 per month. The total budget to pay the pensions in 2008 is USD 18,810,420.00. These pensions are of great economic assistance to the veterans, former combatants and their families. They show that the government values the contribution these veterans and ex-combatants gave to the independence of this country, and continue to give to the peaceful development of a stable nation.

A Decree Law on Support Subsidy to Aged and Disabled Persons was approved by the Council of Ministers in April 2008. The total budget available for the support subsidy to aged and disabled persons in 2008 is $16.8 million. As at December 2008, DNSS had received 71,894 application forms from elderly and people with disabilities. In August 2008, 29,363 elderly received the first payment during the first implementation phase for the 6 month period from January to June 2008. The second phase was from July to December 2008. Each beneficiary receives $20 per month for six months, so, in the first and second phases they received a payment of $120. From 2009 the payments will be made on a monthly basis. The objective of the support subsidy to aged and disabled persons is to provide a basic level of subsistence to those aged and disabled persons living in the national territory and to recognize and value their contribution to the country. The subsidy also aims to improve their living conditions and assist them to deal with their daily difficulties.

The Minister explained that besides the assistance provided to internally displaced people, and pensions for veterans, elderly and disabled, MSS has also provided assistance to other vulnerable groups. For instance, the bolsa da mae program is designed to support the neediest widows, assisting them to feed and educate their children by providing a monthly subsidy. Under this program the Directorate of Social Reintegration provided financial and other support to more than 4,645 widows and their families in 13 districts. The amount given so far has totalled $85,520. There have been 1,942 primary school beneficiaries, 1,069 middle school beneficiaries, 167 University beneficiaries, and 47 beneficiaries studying overseas. The DNRS has also developed integrated child protection networks from village to national level, and now has a Child Protection officer in each of the 13 Districts.

According to the Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, “during 2008, the Ministry of Social Solidarity has worked hard to provide social protection and assistance to the many different vulnerable groups within Timor-Leste. We have been able to assist many people, thanks to the cooperation of other government departments, donors, UN agencies, NGOs and other partner agencies. ” The Minister thanked all of MSS's partners who have helped MSS to achieve such good results, in particular: the Chefe Sucos and Chefe Aldeias, PDHJ, IOM, UNDP, WFP, UNPol, UNICEF, CARE, CRS, Concern, Belun, Austcare, NRC, Triangle, Oxfam, Plan, JRS, Caritas Australia, Pradet, and ASSERT. The Minister said, “I look forward to continuing to work hard in 2009 to provide further social protection and solidarity. By doing so, I sincerely hope we can help improve the lives of all vulnerable people in Timor-Leste.”

Image: IDP girl in a refugee camp in Dili.

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