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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

ChildFund calls for urgent action to stop infant deaths in Timor-Leste

Urgent action is needed to save babies in Timor-Leste from dying before their first birthday.

Recent global studies have shown a decline in the deaths of children under five, but newborn deaths are falling at a slower pace.

In Timor-Leste, two-thirds of all child deaths occur in the first year of life, and every five hours a baby under the age of one dies.

Those figures call for immediate action, according to ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence.

“In most cases these deaths are completely preventable,” Nigel says.

“It is not because we do not have a cure. It is because babies are not able to get the treatment they need and essential information is not reaching their parents.”

Timor-Leste, one of the world’s youngest countries, has a serious shortage of skilled health staff and health facilities.

During the 24-year Indonesian occupation, which ended in 1999, healthcare facilities were intentionally targeted, with one-third being severely damaged or destroyed entirely.

The healthcare system crumbled and hundreds of doctors and nurses were expelled or fled from the violence.

More than a third of Timor-Leste’s population died, including thousands of mothers, grandmothers and caregivers.

Today, many clinics fall well below acceptable standards and lack adequate water, sanitation, and electricity.

More than 70 per cent of the population lives in remote areas, where there are few clinics.

Most of these clinics are difficult to access due to rough dirt roads, and may only be open one or two days each week.

ChildFund Australia is working with communities in Timor-Leste in three main areas to help babies survive:

  • Providing parents and caregivers the information they need to keep their children healthy, through learning and sharing sessions in remote villages. These sessions will teach parents how to prevent the spread of disease, provide the best care, identify when their babies are sick, and how and when to seek a health professional.
  • Keeping communities well informed and ensuring they are ready to act, by producing and distributing easy-to-read guides on common childhood diseases and nutrition.
  • Training Community Health Volunteers in remote villages to ensure there is a health worker available whenever a child gets sick.

Help babies in Timor-Leste survive the most vulnerable period of their lives by supporting ChildFund’s End Baby Deaths in Timor-Leste appeal.

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