ON August 30 1999, a referendum took place in Timor-Leste, leading to the country’s independence. This is remembered each year with a public holiday called Popular Consultation Day. 20 years on, WaterAid Timor-Leste reflects on the progress it has made and the challenges ahead.

WaterAid has been working in Timor-Leste since 2005. WaterAid started in Liquiça municipality in 2007 and has been gradually strengthening its implementation through local partner non-government organisations (NGOs) and with local government.

In 2011, WaterAid expanded into Manufahi municipality. WaterAid has also informed and assisted the government in the development of sector policies and strategies. Since 2007 WaterAid has supported 200 rural communities in Timor-Leste with water and sanitation infrastructure and hygiene education. These achievements have been acquired through a strong partnership approach with local partner NGOs and local government. WaterAid has nearly 10 partners to date that support and contribute to program implementation.

WaterAid’s contributions in Timor-Leste so far have had a large impact because providing access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene links directly to the health and wellbeing of every human being on a daily basis. We acknowledge that there is still a lot more work to do in responding to the needs to rural communities throughout Timor-Leste.

In celebrating Timor-Leste’s 20 years anniversary of Popular Consultation, we thank WaterAid staff and partner staff. We acknowledge their contributions to the development of the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) sector over the 14 years of WaterAid’s existence in Timor-Leste. We also acknowledge their contributions to Timor-Leste’s independence, by being a contributing factor to education and campaigning for Popular Consultation, which took place on August 30, 1999.

As part of this year’s reflection, WaterAid would like to thank the government and the people of Timor-Leste. According to the 2015 census, around 74.7% people in Timor-Leste have access to water to date and 57% people have access to have sanitation. Approximately 28% have hand-washing facilities (Joint Monitoring Programme, 2019).

WaterAid would also like to thank the Timor-Leste government for establishing strategic development planning for 2030 and for adopting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which highlight that everyone, everywhere will have access to water, sanitation, and hygiene by 2030. In addition to having access to basic needs, we expect that we can meet the requirements of improved facilities to ensure the quality of safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as improving health and nutrition for children.

Some critical observations we would like to highlight are as follows:

– The majority of the Timor-Leste population still lack access to WASH;
– There is a lack of management in terms of operation and maintenance;
– Water quality is still a concerning issue; from 137 water samples we tested in Liquiça and Manufahi last year, 72% identified as being contaminated;
– The malnutrition rate is still high at 46% (Demographic Health Survey, 2016).
– Therefore, it is important to increase investment for the WASH sector, operation and maintenance, improving water quality, reducing malnutrition, ensuring community engagement in building sanitation and handwashing facilities at household level, and the maintenance of existing facilities, so that everyone can have access to clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene.

Happy 20th anniversary of Popular Consultation to all Timorese people. Together we will continue to work hard for our people and our beloved nation to achieve our strategic development planning goals and the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Story Source: WaterAid Australia