Wednesday, May 2, 2018

A conducive environment for learning in Timor-Leste

Leonia Mendonca, a 10-year old Grade 6 student at Horaiquic Basic Education School
shows her drawing to the class. Leonia is one of the 170 students now enjoying
 a new school building and new school furniture with the support of UNICEF.
 ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
The primary school in Horaiquic village in the foothills of Timor-Leste’s mountainous Ainaro municipality looks, on the outside, like most other schools in the country.

The same eye-catching yellow-and-mint-painted walls; the same grinning kids hanging out in the corridors. But in many schools in Timor-Leste you would expect to see long rows of desks inside each classroom, facing dusty chalkboards and bordering grimy, cracked-up windows. You’d see upwards of 60 students in a class. You’d see those kids wilting in the oppressive tropical heat and wonder whether it’s safe to try and open one of those windows.

But in Horaiquic Basic Education School, things are different.

Chatty students gather in small groups of three or four at clustered tables, with neat new chairs in freshly painted classrooms. Coloured pencils produce vivid artworks, which will later adorn walls and clean, clear windows. Smiling teachers stand back while students take turns talking in front of the class.

With support from UNICEF and its partners, Horaiquic Basic Education School will become a shining example of education in Timor-Leste – which makes it hard to believe that the school nearly crumpled just over a year ago.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Timor-Leste declared the first open defecation-free municipality

Ermera Municipality declared as Open Defecation Free after following a rigorous process.  Luis Lobato Vice Minister of Health of Timor Leste handed over the declaration to the Municipality President José Martinho dos Santos Soares.  ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
In the courtyard of her home a young mother cradles her baby, carefully angling her arms to protect the infant from the already-hot morning sun. Born in late December last year, the child is one of the newest residents of Railaco, a semi-rural town in the foothills of Timor-Leste’s coffee-growing heartland of Ermera municipality.

He’ll likely never realise it, but the child will live his entire life in a district free from open defecation – a significant public health issue in Timor-Leste’s line of fire, and perhaps the single greatest threat to his health and safety.

Ermera was declared the first municipality (district) in Timor-Leste to be free from open defecation, a practise where people go to fields, bushes, forests, open bodies of water and other open spaces to defecate, instead of using a toilet. About one in three people in rural Timor-Leste continue to practise open defecation, which is a dangerous, dirty and often embarrassing experience. Its elimination is a UNICEF global priority.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Helping hands fighting to curb child mortality rate in Timor-Leste

In Timor-Leste, skilled midwives are reaching out to the mothers for ensuring safe delivery.
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2018/ahelin
Timor-Leste has one of Asia’s highest child mortality rates, but skilled birth attendants provide an answer. Find out how UNICEF is training birth attendants to prevent tragedies in some of Timor-Leste’s most rural and under-resourced villages.

GLENO, TIMOR-LESTE :  In the small maternity room at the back of the  Gleno Community Health Center, rural Timor-Leste, 23-year-old Deolinda de Deus Maia sits with her newborn baby bundled on her lap. The baby sleeps peacefully, with closed eyes barely visible under a soft woollen beanie.

“How old is he?”

“Born last night,” she replies, with a tired smile.

It’s the first child for Deolinda and her husband, who stands proudly by his wife’s side at her hospital bed. They’re clearly thrilled with the healthy boy, and Deolinda is recovering well from the birth. Looking at the family, you wouldn’t believe how close they could have come to something else.

“Two days ago, I got suddenly sick,” Deolinda explains. “So, I called the midwife to help me.”

On the midwife’s advice Deolinda went to the health clinic at Railaco, a semi-rural town approximately halfway between Gleno and the country’s capital city, Dili, but the electricity at the clinic was out and they sent her to Gleno Community Health Center instead, where she safely delivered the baby boy.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Skilled health workers helping mothers to tackle undernutrition in Timor-Leste

Joaquima Felisberta (30) is the Nutrition Coordinator at the Maliana Community Health Centre
is checking health of  Francisca’s baby.
She estimates of the 300 patients her team sees every week,
approximately 10 will present with malnutrition.  @UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
The baby cradled in Francisca Isabel Revio’s lap shifts and whimpers, waking from a nap in the sticky afternoon heat as her mother sits in the Maliana Community Health Center waiting room. Anticipating the baby’s cry moments before it happens, Francisca (41) calmly pulls up the hem of her shirt and begins to breastfeed the child without pausing her sentence.

“I don’t know why it’s this one that has the problem,” she’s saying, gesturing to the 13-month-old now suckling quietly. “None of the others ever got it.”

Francisca’s baby daughter is her youngest child and the first in her family who gets often sick and low weight. She is surprised, and she’s come to the health facility to seek treatment for the girl.

Mothers leading the way, considering every cause

“We wash our hands before we cook, we drink water only from the gallon, the baby drinks breastmilk,” Francisca continues, confidently reciting several factors may reasons that her child may get sick. “The other children eat rice, yam, cassava, corn, papaya leaves, other vegetable leaves … we’re farmers, so whatever we can grow.”

Like most of the population in Timor-Leste, Francisca and her husband are subsistence farmers, who eat whatever they can grow on their land, and live on a wage of around USD 1 per day. At 41, she’s strong and active, and despite the difficulty of growing food in drought-stricken Maliana, Francisca makes sure her family eats at least twice a day.

If you didn’t know, you’d assume Francisca to be the nurse, not the worried mother of a malnourished child. A subsistence farmer, pregnant at 20, she’s not the first person you’d guess to be examining paperwork, explaining nutrient profiles, questioning sanitation practises and conducting diagnoses.

But, of course, as a mother, she’s the best person for the job – and the resources, information and trustworthy consultancy provided by the Health Worker ensure she’s equipped with what she needs to do it well.

The baby’s diet is unlikely to be the problem, and Francisca knows it. Feeding practises, sanitation and diarrhoea and illness can all contribute to poor nutrition in children. While around a third of children in Timor-Leste are underweight, a lack of food isn’t necessarily the problem: according to the country’s 20013 National Nutrition Survey, it’s because nearly three-quarters of children aren’t getting an adequate diet, which comprises both the frequency of meals and the diversity of a child’s diet.

Friday, December 15, 2017

A bridge to new opportunities: Timor-Leste youth celebrate landmark UNICEF report on the digital world

Marked the official launch of the State of the World Children’s Report 2017
by beating the drum by the dignitaries as part of the Timorese tradition.
Snapshot: For students in Timor-Leste, access to the internet bridges the gap when their education and knowledge falls short. Inequality, access and online safety were identified as key priorities in UNICEF’s The State of the World’s Children 2017: Children in a digital world report, launched on 13 December 2017. Hear how internet access is affecting children and young people in Timor-Leste now.

At the beating of the drum that marked the official launch of UNICEF’s new The State of the World’s Children report launch in Timor-Leste, a crowd of smartphones reached high above the crowd, arms outstretched and straining to get the best angle, flashes popping over the heads of the hunched scrum of official media. Before the event finished these images would flood Facebook, attracting hundreds of likes, reactions, and appreciative comments.

It’s unsurprising in a country with an estimated 400,000 active Facebook users, according to Facebook’s 2016 user data – around a third of the tiny island nation’s population.

But the new report, launched jointly by UNICEF, Timor-Leste’s Secretariat of State for Council of Ministers and Social Communication and the national university Universidade National Timor Lorosa’e (UNTL) in Dili, the nation’s capital, highlights the growing digital divide between users in high and low-income countries, and explores the impact of the internet on children’s safety and wellbeing.

The launch was attended by Matias Freitas Boavida, Secretary of State for Council of Ministers and Social Communication; Nivio Leite Magalhães, Secretary of State for Youth and Employment; Professor Francisco Miguel Martins, the Rector of UNTL, and Dili school student Izaura da Silva Pinto.