Timore-Leste’s Ministry of Health launches nationwide health volunteer programme to encourage communities to play active role in their own health
Dili, 16 July 2007 – Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Health, Dr Rui Maria da Araujo, will be launching the Family Health Promoters Programme (FHPP) in Aileu on 17th July 2007.
The FHPP is the first national network of community volunteers to serve as local health resources and to enhance the health system. Based on the Ministry’s slogan ‘Ita nia saude iha ita nia liman rasik’ (Your health is in your own hands), this programme encourages communities to play an active role in staying healthy, and to seek medical help when needed. The FHPP is being piloted in four districts: Viqueque, Manatuto, Liquica and Aileu.
Currently, challenges such as difficult terrain, and the lack of extensive medical resources, make it hard for villagers in remote areas to access health information and health care. On average, every Timorese person utilises health facilities less than two times year.
The FHPP is based on changing behaviour from within a community, thus each aldeia or hamlet will have at least three volunteers who are living in the community. Aldeia chiefs were briefed about the new programme before trainers approached the communities to select health volunteers.
The volunteers will take on the roles of health educators, behavioural change agents and also health providers who will assist in treatment of minor illnesses before they turn serious by giving out vitamin A, iron pills, oral re-hydration salts, and basic first aid. Many of them are farmers or housewives in their 20s or 30s, who have basic reading and writing abilities.
So far, the response has been enthusiastic, with volunteer numbers exceeding the original targets. The Ministry hopes the participatory selection process will give credibility and trust to the volunteers.
At the launch, Dr Rui will meet the volunteers from Aileu and present to them materials that will support them in their volunteer work.
The District Trainers Team, under the supervision of National Master Trainers Team, has now trained more than 443 volunteers. Volunteer training will be given continually in an array of topics, with the initial training starting with nutrition and safe motherhood, which are critical health issues here.
It is estimated that every Timorese woman delivers seven babies in her lifetime; the maternal mortality ratio ranges from 420 to 800 per 100,000 babies born while for every 1000 babies born, 60 die before their first birthdays. Due to a variety of reasons, including the limited access and lack of awareness on the benefits of health services, only 10% of women deliver at health facilities.
The Ministry’s Department of Health Promotion developed the national guidelines for the FHPP in late 2005 after extensive consultation with communities, health staffs, National NGOs, INGOs and UNICEF. Timorese master trainers were supported by primary health care experts from Thailand, while a health specialist funded by the European Commission helped to develop training manuals. National staff of NGOs such as Timor-Leste Asistensia Integradu Saude (TAIS), Health Alliance International, SHARE and AFMET were also actively involved in this process.
The Ministry would like to thank AUSAID, the Australian Government's overseas aid programme, for its significant role in supporting the FHPP. AUSAID has been a generous donor, supporting community-based health interventions for improved maternal and child health as well as increasing immunization coverage. The ministry would also like to thank UNICEF, European Commission, TAIS, Health Alliance International, SHARE and AFMET for their continuous collaboration.
Mary Ann Q. Maglipon, Communication Specialist, UNICEF Timor-Leste HP: +670-7231103 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org