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At a glance: Timor-Leste

Reaching out to ensure vaccination for children in Timor-Leste

By Dominggus Monemnasi

An immunization campaign targets unvaccinated children in remote areas of Timor-Leste, helping to raise the coverage rate and also raise the capacity of national health institutions.

LIQUIÇA, Timor-Leste, 6 October 2015 – Luis Manuel Albino, the chief of Liquiça Community Health Center (CHC) is leading a two-member vaccination team in the Suco Fatukesi village of Timor-Leste’s Liquiça municipality. He is going door-to-door, meeting parents and trying to ensure vaccination of all children between 0 and 15 years old.

“This morning, I made an announcement by megaphone to make parents aware of the vaccination campaign. We are visiting communities, especially who are living in remote areas, to make sure that all children are vaccinated,” says Mr. Albino.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Monemnasi
Team member Jorge Pereira Pinto gives a vaccination to the 11-month-old child of Ana Paula, 24, during the vaccination team's visit to Fatukesi village, in Timor-Leste’s Liquiça municipality.

Liquiça lies about 32 km west of Dili, capital of Timor-Leste. It is one of the districts in Timor-Leste where reaching 95 per cent immunization coverage of children is a challenge, mainly due to geography. Suco Fatukesi is one of the most remote villages of Liquiça, surrounded on both sides by mountains.

Door-to-door visits

Mr. Albino and his team reached out to parents and caregivers by going door to door, as part of a ‘sweep’ programme reaching out to families with unvaccinated children, as well as by making public announcements over megaphone. The team then set up a temporary vaccination post by the riverbank. Many parents came forward who had not been vaccinated. 

Ana Paula, 24, mother of an 11-month-old, is one of them. “I want my child to be healthy. I know immunization will protect my children from various diseases,” she says. “Initially, I was reluctant to take my children to the health post, as it takes around two hours’ walk to reach. Today, when I heard that the health team will come to our neighborhood, I took this opportunity.”

Roque Rangel Amaral, 45, father of three children, also brought his children. His family was identified by the vaccination team during a door-to-door visit.

“I received a text message on my cell phone sent by the Ministry of Health on immunization. However, I was reluctant. We are fortunate that the health team came here and provided this service,” he says. “Otherwise, I would not have immunized my children, as it is too far to travel with three children.”

Hard work paid off

“It was not easy to convince parents to immunize children. We involved Suco [village] and Aldea [sub-village] chiefs and PSF [community health volunteers] to mobilize community members. They met the community members and discussed the importance of immunization as part of our social mobilization initiative,” says Mr. Albino. 

Jorge Pereira Pinto, 55, one of the team’s vaccinators, gave the vaccine to the children one by one.

© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Monemnasi
Roque Rangel Amaral, 45, father of three children, was reluctant to make a long journey to have his children immunized, but had them vaccinated during the team's visit to Fatukesi.

“I feel happy to provide health services to the children,” he says proudly. “They are our future. I have to make sure that they are protected and healthy.”

“We have tried our best to cover all the targeted children within my CHC area during the campaign period,” Mr. Albino adds. “We will do house-to-house visits to make sure that none of the targeted children are missed out.”

“The campaign is helping to pave the way for introduction of measles and rubella vaccinations into routine immunization,” explains Hemlal Sharma, UNICEF Timor-Leste Chief of Health and Nutrition. “This campaign is expected to improve immunity of children against measles and help avert potential measles outbreaks in the future.”

Strengthening capacity

The measles, rubella, and polio immunization campaign, launched in July, has reached more than 95 per cent of children aged 0 to 15 years. The Ministry of Health led the campaign, with support from the Measles and Rubella Initiative, the Red Cross of Timor-Leste, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and other national and international organizations.

Government Spokesperson Agio Pereira congratulated all involved in the campaign: “This campaign and the ongoing routine immunization programme are making a life-changing contribution to the health of our children and in doing so, to the future of the nation.”

The immunization campaign has also enhanced the capacity of the Ministry of Health. The training for healthcare workers, improvements of the vaccine cold chain and joint social communications efforts have strengthened its ability to deliver routine immunization and raised community awareness on the importance of vaccination.



UNICEF Photography: Championing the cold chain

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