Subject: The case of the dead children

The case of the dead children

Weekly Visão Lisbon

Little by little the refuges that were on West Timor are returning to their homes, leaving the nightmare behind. The reporter Jill Jolliffe tells the story of a family that returned to its hometown, a village that has nothing besides a few huts.

Luzina Afonso is the Timorese woman who returned with her husband and talks to the reporter. She is depressed, with her head down and tears in her eyes because she has returned indeed, but with her three dead babies. She could have returned before but the Indonesian did not allow the repatriation of dead persons, something that only happened in January 2002. According to Jake Morland, UNHCR staff, “Culturally, it was very important for the Timorese. They could not leave their beloved ones in a foreign country.”

Around 200 meters from Luzina is a family of 24 persons that brought nine corpses from West Timor. According to one of them, Alberto Freitas, the deaths took place because they were weakened by malnutrition. “They had stomachaches, headaches, and diarrhea and there were no drugs,” he said.

With 159 deaths per 1000 until the age of five, infant mortality is dramatically high in East Timor, but the Timorese who returned from the refugee camps agree that “even in the worst years, our children would not have died one per year, not even in two years.”

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