MINISTRY OF SOCIAL SOLIDARITY PRESS RELEASE 17 December 2009 - Minister of Social Solidarity provides update on work of MSS during 2009 On 17 December 2009, the Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, provided an update about the work of the Ministry of Social Solidarity during 2009. The Minister said “during 2009 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.”
Since the commencement of the National Recovery Strategy in December 2007, MSS has assisted more than 14,700 IDP families to return to, and rebuild their homes (11,200 in 2008 and 3,500 in 2009). The Ministry has assisted IDPs from 65 tented IDP camps and 6 Transitional Shelters to return home (49 in 2008 and 16 in 2009). MSS has distributed more than $37.8 million in Phase I recovery/reintegration packages ($26.8 million in 2008 and $11 million in 2009).
Phase II of the National Recovery Strategy was approved by the Council of Ministers on 28 October 2009 and commenced implementation in mid-November 2009. More than 15,500 IDP families have received a Phase II recovery package of $500 as recovery assistance for possessions and assets which were lost/destroyed during the 2006/07 crises. The commercial banks – ANZ, Bank Mandiri, BNU, and the Micro-Finance Institute of Timor-Leste - are assisting MSS to implement Phase II. It is hoped the returned IDPs are using the Phase I and Phase II recovery packages to rebuild their lives, and that they will continue to live peacefully and safely in their communities of return.
Since they commenced work in July 2008, the MSS/UNDP Dialogue Teams have organised 42 community dialogues (16 (July-December 08) and 26 (January - December 09)) in Dili, Ermera, Liquica, Baucau and Viqueque. The MSS/UNDP dialogue teams promote dialogue as a means to addressing community conflict. They have conducted more than 694 mediations in support of IDP reintegration and return (392 (July - December 08) and 302 (January - December 09)).
The government places a high priority on recognizing the great contributions made by veterans of the resistance and in 2008 began the payment of monthly pensions to veterans and their surviving immediate family members. 4000 veterans and families of martyrs have received pensions in 2009. The total budget to pay the pensions in 2009 is $15 million. 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.
In 2009, MSS also provided scholarships to 78 children of martyrs studying at school or university. On 28 – 29 August 2009, a Funeral Ceremony was held and the remains of 443 martyrs were buried at the Heroes and Martyrs of the National Resistance Garden in Metinaro.
Support Subsidy for Elderly and Disabled
Since 2008 MSS has been providing a Support Subsidy of $20 a month to elderly and disabled national citizens. Persons 60 years old or above are considered elderly and persons 18 years old with absolute and definitive incapacity to work (medically declared) are considered disabled. 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 total budget available for the support subsidy to aged and disabled persons in 2009 is $16.25 million. A total of 63,614 elderly persons who have identification to prove their identity and age, have received payments in 2009. A total of 5,663 disabled citizens have received the support subsidy in 2009. DNSS has requested 20,737 beneficiaries to present additional identification documents in order to receive the benefits. The payments are conducted on a six monthly basis at the district and sub-district offices.
Other assistance provided by MSS
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 and single mothers, 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 9,739 widows and their families in 13 districts. The total government budget for the Bolsa da Mae program in 2009 is $795,760.00.
In 2009, the Directorate for Social Assistance developed the social housing program to support the elderly, disabled, widows and chronically ill and improve their living conditions by providing them with a new house. A total of 450 houses were budgeted for in all 13 districts. 208 houses have been completed in 6 districts (35 in Bobonaro, 35 in Covalima, 34 in Liquica, 35 in Manufahi, 35 in Oe-cusse and 34 in Viqueque). 139 houses are more than 50% complete in 4 districts - Ainaro, Baucau, Dili and Manatuto. 69 houses in Ermera and Lospalos districts are still in the process of construction.
The Directorate of Social Assistance has also provided humanitarian assistance (mostly food) to vulnerable groups in Dili and each district. At least 90,000 people have received food assistance from DNAS during 2009, including widows, disabled, elderly, orphans, IDPs, and victims of natural disasters. In 2009 DNAS also provided more than 250 bereaved families with funeral cars to take the deceased family member from the home or hospital to the cemetery.
According to the Minister of Social Solidarity, Maria Domingas Fernandes Alves, “during 2009, 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, IOM, UNDP, WFP, UNICEF, UNFPA, Concern, CRS, Plan, NRC, Oxfam, CARE, Belun, JRS, Ba Futuru, Trocaire, the PDHJ, RENETIL, Austcare, Sub-Commission Justice and Peace, Caritas, RCDS, PRADET, JSMP, FOKUPERS, Casa Vida, the Alola Foundation, AHISAUN, ALMA Sisters, ASSERT, DPO Groupu Karpinteria, East Timor Blind Union, Grupus Esperanca/CWS, KATILOSA, KLIBUR DOMIN, St Francisco Ailieu, and Timor Aid. The Minister said, “I look forward to continuing to work hard in 2010 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.”