Timor’s Ministry of Health is building on this success by implementing an ongoing, nationwide malaria campaign, which ChildFund is supporting. This includes distribution of mosquito nets to those most vulnerable to the worst impacts of the disease – pregnant women and their unborn babies.
Many Timorese women are unaware that malaria can affect unborn babies, impacting their immune system. If they contract malaria falciparaum – one of the most severe and dangerous strands of the disease, it can also damage a baby’s brain, or result in death.
ChildFund, with the support of the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP), is helping to ensure more women in rural areas are given free nets during pre-natal check-ups, and know the signs of possible infection.
Those living in the capital of Dili are not immune to the disease either. In fact, malaria is more likely to spread rapidly in an urban environment, where a mosquito can quickly carry the disease from one individual to another due to the higher population density. As such, greater health and hygiene knowledge is also essential to keep mosquito colonies from forming.
This includes regular cleaning of any household vessels used to store water, such as jars and pots, or covering the entry points of outdoor water tanks to prevent mosquitos entering and laying eggs. After her own illness, Helena is keen to avoid any further infections: “I make sure to clean my house every day and do not leave water around because I know the mosquitos will make a nest there.”