Subject: JP: East Timor rebuilds health infrastructure from ashes

Received from Joyo Indonesian News

The Jakarta Post September 16, 2002

East Timor rebuilds health infrastructure from ashes

The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

The new government in East Timor would try to heal the psychological trauma suffered by many of its people in the 1999 violence when Indonesia withdrew from the territory, the country's health minister said.

"The result of that violence was devastating," Rui Maria de Araujo said in an interview on the sidelines of the WHO Southeast Asia Region meeting in Jakarta this week, where East Timor attended as an observer.

"Many people were affected and we have found a significant number of cases that need attention, with the most common symptom being psychosis," said 38-year-old Araujo, who finished his MPH degree in New Zealand in 2001 and became East Timor health minister in May 2002.

With funding from the Australian aid agency (AUSAID), Rui's office developed a national mental health program that also deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. Most of the activities are currently being carried out in the capital, Dili, but are being expanded to the district level and involving East Timorese nurses.

"I was not personally affected, I did not witness the violence first hand because I was away at the time studying in New Zealand, but two months after the violence I returned home to find my house burned down, my clinic burned down, all my books and equipment stolen," he said.

Violence prevailed in East Timor after a UN-sponsored ballot resulted in an overwhelming vote for independence three years ago.

Araujo, who went to the Sultan Agung University Medical School in Semarang and finished it at the Udayana University in Denpasar, said with Indonesia's withdrawal, 75 percent of the infrastructure was destroyed, almost all medical equipment was stolen and 60 percent of health-related human resources, including doctors, fled East Timor.

"This is where we have to start (building our health development)," he said.

East Timor's population currently stands at 800,000 with infant and maternal mortality rates of 140 and 80 per 10,000 live births respectively, much higher than Indonesia's rates of 51 and 41 per 10,000 live births.

Communicable diseases are the main cause of mortality, with TB, malaria and diarrhea topping the list. The number of malnourished people remains as high as it was during the Indonesian administration, according to Araujo.

East Timor has to cope with the limited human resources as well, as there are only 35 doctors in the country, comprising GPs and specialists.

"We are expecting up to 30 new doctors to be graduating from Indonesian universities in the coming 5 years," Araujo said.

The country is spending approximately US$9 per capita per year for recurrent costs, while the US$25.3 million fund allocated by the Trust Fund for East Timor for 2000-2004 pays for capital investment for health, including the rebuilding of hospitals and the purchase of equipment.


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