We're thinking of visiting East Timor with a view to eventually perhaps living there for a period and doing volnteer work. Is it safe to bring our 2 year old and 5 year old sons for a visit?
Olivia, I'll have a definitive answer for you in a day or two... I've passed this question along to a friend whose sister is married to a government official and she's lived there for years. Stay tuned.
I know they're very grateful for anyone who'll come and do volunteer work, but it is a very poor country. Many children are malnourished with most families unable to provide enough food for 2 months of every year. How far into the ex-pat community that problem extends is what I'll find out for you.
Malaria and Dengue Fever is also a problem in east Timor, and of course the sanitation infrastructure is crude so all the associated disease is a problem from time to time. Anyway.... get back to you in a day or two. over 5 years ago
Olivia, my friend was pretty quick to get back to me, so:
he recommends children should not be taken further afield than Dili (the capital) and then only for a short visit, not an extended stay. He said he'd be reluctant to take a 2 year old there regardless, for any duration, just too much disease around (and 2 year olds don't have sophisticated immune systems).
As he pointed out, many of the volunteer work is in remote parts of East Timor, and a 3 day car ride to Dili is common. Medical facilities in Dili are rudimentary. There's only 1 flight a day to Darwin (which has a great hospital) and one other airline which flies to Bali (another Bali service is opening soon). If your 2 year old has malaria or some other sickness, it could be as long as 4 days before appropriate medical care is given.
There's no ex-pat compound where conditions for volunteers are less difficult - everyone is in the same boat. And as I said, you could be in a very remote part of the country.
On the up-side, my friend says East Timor is going to need volunteer workers for many years to come, perhaps you could put off your plans until the children are a little older?
Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but what he says makes sense. If you decide to go (and take the children) please make sure you have appropriate travel insurance... and that may not be a product my company (WorldNomads) offers. You need specialist cover... speak to the aid organisation about what level of cover they offer their volunteers and their family members, otherwise you may have to organise your own through a specialist insurer - which may be expensive, too. over 5 years ago
Hi Olivia it looks like Phil has already provided you some great information. I have lived in East Timor for the last 2 years (I am an Australian) and wanted to share my thoughts that may help you.
I agree very much with Phil that the biggest concern with bringing young children to East Timor is health related. However I would add that there is both an Australian Doctor and Portguaguse Doctor which can be accessed if you are willing to pay (cost around $80US per visit). Also being so close to Darwin (around 45 mins) makes it close for medical evacuations.
The other thing is that there is more than ample opportunities to volunteer in Dili, while yes the big need is in the districts.
Yes life here in East Timor is 'harder' than Western life, but its very doable. However I speak as someone without kids.
Anyway hope this helps. You may want to take a look at the blog I coordinate (www.unofficialeasttimor.com) and feel free to send me any questions.
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