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.
©Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

“Do you have a plan?” Staff’s children take over their parents’ roles in UNICEF Timor-Leste Office on World Children’s Day

Marli (9) is acting as Deputy Representative of UNICEF Timor-Leste
on the conference call about presentations and working style
as part of the ‘children take over’ event on World’s Children’s Day, 20 November 2017 in Dili.
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
The Deputy Representative of UNICEF’s Timor-Leste office is concentrating on the multi-country conference call, she’s leading on presentations and working styles. She opens her mouth to answer a question about the working archetype of academic Albert Einstein, but before she can answer, her eight-year-old brother interrupts.

“He’s emotional, definitely,” he says, confidently.

“No way, he’s Albert Einstein,” she returns. Then, to the screen. “He’s a thinker.”

“I agree,” replies a voice from a tiny box in the computer.

The deputy adjusts her lime-green cap and nods into the screen.

“How old are you, Marli?” the voice asks mildly. 

“Ten,” the Deputy replies.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Local government leaders pledge to work with communities on pre-school education

Amos Goncalves (Middle) preschool student from Tai-Ubu Suco Lasaun,
“ I love to come to school because in the school I learn many things,
we dance, we sing, painting and learning ABC (Alphabet)”.
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/bsoares
Ermera Municipal Authority officials and Suco (village) Chiefs have pledged to work closely with communities and the Ministry of Education to support community pre-schools in their areas.

The Ermera Municipal Authority and the Ministry of Education with the support of UNICEF brought together Suco Chiefs and officials from the municipality to discuss how communities can support the early learning of children. The meeting, a first on this topic was aimed at raising the awareness of Ermera Suco leaders on the Early Childhood Development (ECD) and the importance of pre-school education for children. The village chiefs, who were elected in October 2016, play a key role in deciding priority projects for their communities and mobilizing community members to take action on specific issues.

“When we build a house, the foundation should be strong. The same with children. If they learn early and help them to stimulate their brains by engaging with them for various activities, then they will have a good foundation for learning. They can better adapt and absorb many ideas when they grow up,” Jose Martinho Dos Santos Suares, President Ermera Municipal Authority said in his opening speech.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

UNICEF joins celebration to promote handwashing with soap

Students of the Basic Education School No. 5 Comoro
participating in the Global Handwashing Day event
organized by the Ministers of Health and Education with the support of UNICEF.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/dmonemnasi
The excitement of students at the Basic Education School No. 5 Comoro as they waited for the start of the Global Handwashing Day event was palpable. Many children ran around the yard, smiling and waving their Global Handwashing Day flags. Others excitedly practiced their skits and presentations.

Global Handwashing Day has been celebrated in Timor-Leste since 2014. This year’s event was filled with enthusiastic singing, skits and presentations with lots of handwashing from children and leaders alike. UNICEF Representative Valérie Taton joined First Lady Cidália Lopes Nobre Mouzinho Guterres and representatives from the Ministries of Education and Health joined the event, organized with the support of UNICEF and other development partners.

This year’s theme, “Our hands, Our future,” emphasizes the impact that handwashing can have not just on individuals but also on communities. Handwashing is an affordable and effective solution to poor health outcomes and has the power to improve access to education for children, protect the health of patients and communities, and reduce inequities.

“Our health is in our hands, as well as our future” declared one student from School No. 5 Comoro during the event. In a short play during the event, students emphasized what could happen to children if they don’t wash their hands with soap after playing, after using the toilet and at other crucial times.