About Timor-Leste

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (also known as East Timor), in Southeast Asia, is made up of several islands, including the eastern half of Timor, Atauro, and Jaco. Australia is Timor-Leste’s neighbor to the south, separated by the Timor Sea. Timor-Leste’s predominantly mountainous terrain is home to 1.4 million people, with most living in the western portion of the country in or around the capital of Dili. The Timorese population is ethnically diverse, including groups such as Austronesian, Melanesia-Pauan, Bunak, Fataluku, Bakasai, Tetun, Mambai, Tokodede, Galoli, Kemak, and Baikeno. Because of this diversity, the population speaks a variety of languages including the official languages of Tetun and Portuguese alongside English, Indonesian, and 32 other indigenous languages. The vast majority of the population, as much as 98 percent, identifies as Roman Catholic.

East Timor was at one time colonized by Portugal and was called Portuguese Timor. It gained independence in 1975, only to be invaded by Indonesia shortly thereafter. The Indonesian occupation lasted for several violent decades, as East Timor struggled for true independence. In 1999, Indonesia relinquished control of East Timor, and Timor-Leste was named a sovereign state in 2002. Despite being a relatively new country with an impoverished population, progress has been made on Timorese living standards. Overall poverty levels decreased from 50 percent to 42 percent between 2007 and 2014. Agriculture is a major component of the Timorese economy, and employs a majority of the population. However, in terms of value, offshore natural gas deposits and hydrocarbon production make up the largest portion of the economy.

Timor-Leste is characterized by a high population growth rate, about 2.2 percent annually. This has resulted in a young population, with 40 percent of Timorese under the age of 15. Average life expectancy has increased to 69 by 2019. Most common causes of death include stroke, ischemic heart disease, lower respiratory infection, neonatal disorders, COPD, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, diarrheal diseases, chronic kidney disease, cirrhosis, congenital defects, and malaria. The risk factors that contribute most to deaths and disabilities include malnutrition, air pollution, high blood pressure, dietary risks, high fasting plasma glucose, kidney dysfunction, insufficient sanitation and clean water, high LDL, alcohol and tobacco use, unsafe sex, and occupational risks.


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