HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: News Weekly
East Timor in grip of major famine
, July 2, 2005
Seventy-three people suffering from severe malnutrition are being admitted to Dili National Hospital's casualty department every day, according to spokespersons from the Timor Government and CARE International.
This is down from 150 a day four weeks ago.
Patients are suffering from influenza and pneumonia.
The pneumonia symptoms start with dizziness and weakness, headache and high fever. A week later, their legs and bodies swell up due to kwashiorkor. There is a high death rate from this form of malnutrition, which involves an imbalance in the amount of protein versus carbohydrate in the diet.
The majority affected are pregnant women. However, several children are also being admitted with marasmus, the most severe form of malnutrition. This involves reduction in total protein and calorie intake.
There have also been 43 new cases of tuberculosis notified.
The high incidence of tuberculosis reflects under-nutrition and stress. The after-effects of 1999 are still visible throughout East Timor, including lack of adequate housing and overcrowding. Added to this are the ongoing stresses of unemployment and poverty.
Last year, over 100,000 people required food assistance, owing to the effects of prolonged drought, diseased crops and lack of access to tools and seeds. Earlier this year, over 50 people in a village located on a main road on a tourist route starved to death.
According to Melbourne general practitioner, Dr Janet Gross: "This is a major humanitarian crisis worse than Sudan."
A major inquiry is currently being conducted in East Timor regarding government corruption. The inquiry was set up after over 20,000 people demonstrated peacefully in the streets of Dili in May.How Australians can help:News Weekly
readers are invited to donate money for famine relief. Please send donations to East Timor Famine Relief, News Weekly
, PO Box 186, North Melbourne, Vic 3051, and the money will be sent directly to support those in need in East Timor.