History of WHO in Timor-Leste

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (DRTL) is situated on the eastern part of the island of Timor, one of the Lesser Sunda Islands in the Indonesian Archipelago. The enclave of Oecussi in the western part of Timor Island and the islands of Atauro and Jaco are also part of DRTL. It is bordered by the Wetar Strait to the north and Timor Sea to the south. The western half of Timor Island belongs to the Republic of Indonesia and is part of East Nusa Tenggara province.

Timor-Leste was under the rule of Portugal until 1975 when it was occupied by Indonesia. After 24 years of Indonesian occupation, the people of Timor-Leste voted overwhelmingly for independence on 30 August 1999. The territory was subsequently placed under the administration of the International Force of the United Nations, in consultation with East Timorese, established a transitional government in July 2000, and a Constituent Assembly was elected in August 2001. The Assembly wrote the country’s first Constitution. After the Presidential Election was held in April 2002, Timor-Leste formally became an independent nation on 20 May 2002. In the same year it also became a member of United Nations (UN) and many UN Agencies including the World Health Organization. The country was also formally assigned to the WHO South-East Asia Region at the 56th World Health Assembly in May 2003.

WHO was involved in Timor-Leste soon after separation from Indonesia and has had an office in Dili since October 1999. The violence that followed separation led to the destruction of much of the health infrastructure and the withdrawal of many health providers. Since that time, WHO, along with other international community, has assisted Timor-Leste in re-establishing its health system and developing new health policies for the country.

During the emergency period, WHO played a key role in the coordination of health services provided by a large number of donors and NGOs. WHO played an important role in implementing key programmes in the country, most notably infectious disease control (malaria, TB and leprosy), improved health services for children, maternal health and clinical nursing care. The work of WHO, in many of these programme areas, was supported by donor funding.