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"Water and sanitation provision across East Timor is still a right denied to many. An immediate manifestation of this fact is the compromised health of communities due to both a lack of water and the range of water-born diseases that are making an impact. On a lifestyle level, the absence of a water distribution system is absorbed almost exclusively by the labour of women and children, as they are the ones who must carry water over long distances." East Timorese National water and sanitation (W&S) NGOs

Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e
The East Timor National NGO Forum

Kaikoli Street,  Dili-East Timor  telephone 322772/



1. Introduction

Water and sanitation provision across East Timor is still a right denied to many. An immediate manifestation of this fact is the compromised health of communities due to both a lack of water and the range of water-born diseases that are making an impact. On a lifestyle level, the absence of a water distribution system is absorbed almost exclusively by the labour of women and children, as they are the ones who must carry water over long distances. It is true that water and sanitation infrastructure was targeted and suffered extensive damage in the 1999 post-election rampage. However, most of the existing Indonesian works were poorly designed anyway and should not necessarily be replicated. Currently in East Timor, the UNTAET Water and Sanitation Service (WSS) is controlling the implementation of works only in Dili and the district capitals, which leaves a lot of scope for the involvement of international and national non-government organisations. Many towns, such as sub-district capitals, lack the population to be included in the WSS program but are too large to coordinate water programs as communities, as can villages. As extensive development of water and sanitation provision is set to happen in East Timor, one question that must be asked is, to what extent will this process involve East Timorese input and expertise?

This paper is a collection of views from national water and sanitation (W&S) NGOs. It is our perspective that we have a responsibility to meet the needs of community water and sanitation service provision in both this transitional period and beyond to counter the deficiency in governmental services. Through accepting these challenges we seek to raise the standards of health and improve the general well-being of the people of East Timor.

Priorities/recommendations are presented under each section and labelled 2.1 through to 4.1.

2. Financial and Material Assistance

Under the current funding structures operating in East Timor, the bulk of financial assistance for water and sanitation development does not reach the community level. Much of the funding received by International NGOs and UNTAET for these services is centred on Dili where it is spent on international expertise and urban development, with little or no benefit to the majority of East Timorese people. International NGO staff often must overcome cultural differences in only relatively short placements of six months or less. There is often no opportunity for knowledge transfer between incoming and outgoing internationals and contrary objectives of individuals can jeopardise productive work that is already underway. One person heading a water supply program in Maucatar, Covalima had open access to resources but lacked appropriate expertise and neglected to involve the community or the local NGO, Bia Hula. The system that resulted was a failure - the water did not reach the community and valuable materials were wasted. National W&S NGO staff, as East Timorese, are stakeholders in each water and sanitation project in their region and,  in such cases, can be held responsible by communities for its success. Therefore, a revision of the method of fund distribution is one of our major priorities.

2.1 International parties should both support and utilise national water and sanitation NGOs in a more direct fashion.
If national NGOs received greater donor support, a) a greater proportion of aid would reach programs on the community level and b) a more equitable distribution of aid across the districts would be achieved. We have already established productive relationships with both urban and rural communities and these must be taken advantage of. As no one is more aware of grass-roots needs and priorities than the communities themselves, direct donations will enable provision of sustainable and culturally appropriate technology. Successful communication and cooperation between donors and international NGOs one the one hand and national NGOs and communities on the other is crucial. The nature of this assistance must reflect the specific needs of East Timor. In community development programs here, resources are frequently more useful than money.

2.2 Structures are needed to facilitate donations of resources (rather than money alone) for water and sanitation projects.
The provision of transport resources to national NGOs will increase our capacity to successfully deliver and maintain projects in areas where access may otherwise prove difficult. Other specialised materials include flow measuring devices, surveying equipment, pipes, fittings, taps and work tools. This style of assistance has been used successfully in East Timor by USAID and Oxfam.

2.3 Direct assistance should be coupled with a willingness on the part of donors and international NGOs to respect the independence of national NGOs and have faith in both our ability to coordinate projects and manage financial and material donations.
There is a need for local NGOs to have these opportunities for our own development as organisations. Capacity Building, as discussed in part 3, is both a means of empowering East Timorese people, but also developing relationships, familiarity and trust between parties. It is crucial that program initiatives are made by East Timorese people and supported by internationals, rather than the other way around.

2.4 Donors must offer a long-term commitment to development in East Timor, to enable quality projects to be developed with and by East Timorese people.

3. Capacity Building

Capacity building amongst national NGOs will enhance East Timorese ability to carry out projects independently and enhance our own ability to continue training in the future. Assistance in this area is infinitely more valuable than the short-term benefits of an a sophisticated project delivered with international expertise. During the Indonesian occupation, governmental structures limited the opportunities for local people to participate in water and sanitation programs, most gaining experience under Ausaid's East Timor Water and Sanitation Project. We also acknowledge the initiatives of international NGOs such as Oxfam and Care, who have provided training to local staff, however, the need for comprehensive, long-term training is still great.

3.1 Donors and international NGOs can play an important role in establishing a coordinated, capacity building program in consultation with national NGOs and community representatives.
National water and sanitation NGOs have a need for training in the following areas: technical - hydraulic theory, construction and maintenance skills; management and planning skills; financial management; language training (English and Portuguese). Community representatives can also obtain specific skills in constructing, operating and maintaining their own programs where national NGOs cannot assist. Such an initiative will require both financial assistance and a genuine commitment from international water and sanitation specialists with experience in working in a cross-cultural capacity and providing appropriate technology solutions. When the capacity of national water and sanitation NGOs is strengthened, we will be in a stronger position to train both new staff and partner water user groups in communities.

4. Community Development and Health Education

East Timorese communities have a need for national W&S NGOs to play an even greater role in project development than what they are currently able. Extended communication between parties is required to present the options available and assist in identifying the communities' needs and expectations for a water supply program. Under the Community Empowerment Program, 40% of the priorities identified by communities relate to water supply. Funds are available for projects to be implemented directly by the communities, but the process often occurs without appropriate expertise. National NGOs have established many water user groups but lack the resources to develop relationships with all communities in East Timor. There is also a general lack in awareness of the relationship between water and health on the community level. National W&S NGOs are playing a role in health promotion but this should be expanded to address the breadth of the problem.

4.1 National NGOs should be resourced to carry a more prominent advisory and developmental role in communities and address the area of health education to a greater extent.

5. National Water and Sanitation NGOs

Bia Hula Foundation
(Yayasan Bia Hula)
Contact: Aleixio da Cruz, ph. 0418 850 074
Districts: Dili, Ermera, Covalima, Aileu, Ainaro, Bobonaro

(SD Farol Nia Oin)
Contact: Armando Lopes ph: 0407 657 967
Districts: Baucau, Lospalos

(Hamoris Timor Oan)
Contact: Antonio Gaspar P, ph: 0409 031 633
Districts: Liquica

(Foundasuan Obras ba Rai Timor Independente)
Contact: Joseph Luan, ph: 0419 078 281
Districts: Manufahi

See also:

Feb 2001 Oxfam Horizons: Muleya: The right to basic services - Water & sanitation  Interview added Mar 23
"Did you enjoy the time there? It was fabulous. People received our program very well. Oxfam [CAA] was given the task of trying to rehabilitate the water systems in Dili and the western districts after the crisis. They did a great job, got the water going in districts where the destruction was up to 95 percent - with a lot of help from the communities themselves - then handed it over to the government to maintain. They put in new transmission lines, water tanks and pipes, which they call the Oxfam snakes; polythene pipes snaking up the mountains." Clara Muleya, manager, joint Oxfam environmental health program in Liquica province

East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e  Updated June 14
Umbrella agency for East Timorese Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
VISION: To contribute to the building of a pluralist, democratic, just and sustainable East Timor through the development of a strong, independent and responsible civil society committed to upholding and making real in the daily life of the community, both village and urban, the full range of human rights so that all East Timorese, particularly the poor and disadvantaged, can enjoy the fruits of liberation and development in an East Timor forever free.
MISSION: To realise its vision by promoting a culture of learning, cooperation, partnership with the community and respect for human rights and good practice amongst East Timorese NGOs and between them and other development actors, both domestic and international, and by serving as a collective, independent voice for the rights and needs of the community.
VALUES AND PRINCIPLES: a rights approach to development; inclusiveness, participation; accountability; gender balance; respect for the environment; non-party political; non-sectarian; good governance; volunteerism.
Kaikoli Street, Dili-East Timor  Telephone +670(390)322772
E-mail:  Homepage:
Jun 7 ETNGO Forum: Donors Meeting must be for Rural People:
Jun 13 ETNGO Forum: The voice of Civil Society calls the Donors:

BD: East Timor National NGO Forum / Forum Nacional ONG Timor Lorosa'e - A collection of recent media releases, position-statements, speeches, petitions, reports, and news

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