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Program commenced:   1995

Total number of placements: 454 (as of 20 July, 2011)

Number of current placements: 12 (as of 20 July, 2011)

AVI Programs: Volunteer Program, Atauro Island Community Capacity Building Project, Community Water Supply and Sanitation Program, ETDA Employment Services Project, Staffing Assistance Program for East Timor, Timor Tennis Clinic 2007, Timor-Leste Tennis Clinic 2005

Timor Leste is located in the eastern part of Timor, an island in the Indonesian archipelago that lies between the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean. Timor Leste includes the enclave of Oecussi, which is surrounded by West Timor (Indonesia).

Timor-Leste has a long history of colonisation, beginning with the Portugese in from the mid 1700s and more recently with their struggle for independence from Indonesia. Following a vote for independence in the 1999 referendum, violence was sparked by Indonesian army-backed anti-independence Timorese militias, killing and displacing thousands of Timorese and destroying infrastructure. Australian-led peacekeeping forces have been in place since Sept 1999 and Australia still plays a major role assisting development.

Timor-Leste is one of the world's poorest nations and still has a lot to achieve in areas such as adult literacy and life expectancy.

Contact our Timor-Leste program office.

Development Issues

Socio-economic issues
Health issues
Environmental issues

Socio-economic issues

Foremost among the development issues Timor-Leste is faced with, is the widespread poverty and inequality within the country. In 2004 the GDP per capita for Timor-Leste was only US$370. Approximately 40 per cent of the population live below the national poverty line - on less than US$0.55 per day.

Timor-Leste's economy also suffers from a lack of skilled workers. Many schools were destroyed in the Indonesian invasion. Thus Timor-Leste faces the new challenge of re-educating a low skilled population. Though poverty is the major impediment to education, there are other problems including a shortage of trained teachers, language issues, inadequate facilities and systemic inefficiencies. Adding to the lack of education is the fact that during the years of Indonesian occupation few Timorese were allowed to hold skilled positions or received training. Fortunately, new local graduates and the rise of experienced government, NGO and UN workers is changing this picture now.

Microfinance development in Timor-Leste remains in a very basic state. There has been some limited provision of microfinance by local non-government organisations (NGOs) and some re-emergence of credit unions. However, the commercial banks have not attempted to expand their operations outside Dili.

The development of more robust public governance - including in the law and justice sectors - is also a priority. The East Timorese Government has identified concerns about public expenditure management, including difficulties in controlling agency expenditures in travel and overhead costs, poor compliance with expenditure procedures, and a continuing inability to recover costs in the power sector.

For up-to-date information and statistics on socio-economic development issues in Timor Leste, please refer to the following sources: 
UNDP Human Development Report
Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - East Timor Country Brief
Asian Development Bank, Timor-Leste profile

Health issues

Overall health in Timor-Leste is in a dire state. Infant and under-five mortality rates are among the highest in Asia. Malnutrition is also widespread. In 2003, almost half of the children under five years of age were stunted and 46 per cent underweight. Further, communicable diseases are widespread with malaria, dengue fever, acute respiratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases all especially serious among children. Tuberculosis is also a major public health hazard and leprosy remains endemic.

This poor state of health can be attributed to deficiencies in the health system and a lack of basic infrastructure. Only a third of the population has access to improved sanitation and 52 per cent to improved water sources. Medical facilities are still inadequate (although they have improved markedly since 1999 when more than 80 per cent of medical facilities were either destroyed or damaged). Many facilities remain without access to water. Further unequal access to health services and an inadequate referral system are major challenges to improving health. There is also a major shortage of doctors, health workers and technical health professionals. The WHO has estimated that in 2004, there was only (approximately) one physician, 18 nurses, four midwives and 20 community health workers per 10,000 people.

For up-to-date information and statistics on health issues in Timor Leste, please refer to the following site:
WHO - Timor-Leste country fact sheet

Environmental issues

Much of the terrain in Timor-Leste is steep, with only a thin covering of productive soil. Approximately 44 per cent of the country is of steep terrain, which is not suitable for sustainable cultivation and may require reforestation or crops providing plant cover. However, many farmers, with poor land management techniques, have adopted 'slash and burn' agriculture, which combined with free grazing, seasonal bush burning and uncontrolled fire wood collection, have contributed to deforestation, erosion, diminishing ground water and steady loss of soil cover over time.

In urban centres, pollution is a key environmental issue. There are no effective waste-management systems in place, which could become a major problem in the highly populated areas, and in several coastal areas visited by tourists. Dili has a basic sewerage system and limited collection and disposal of solid waste. However, large piles of rubbish accumulate due to illegal dumping, which further pollutes the groundwater used for drinking by many people.

The above information has been taken from: 
UNDP Timor-Leste


More reading about Timor-Leste

The passing of Guido dos Santos by Australian Volunteer Peter Sibly