Timor-Leste, a country that gained independence only 11 years ago, is struggling to build an infrastructure and healthcare system that works. The country suffers from debilitating poverty and debt that inhibits the government from providing for its citizens. Due to the lack of infrastructure, the maternal mortality rate in Timor-Leste is one of the highest in the world.
“Although there are 2.3 health workers for every 1,000 people, which meets the international minimum standard set by the World Health Organization (WHO), the quality and competency of these health professionals is questionable given the training available and shortage of trained doctors,” said Jannatul Ferdous, a maternal and child health adviser at HADIAK, a locally implemented health project that works with the Ministry of Health.
According to a recent report, only 30% of women in Timor-Leste give birth to with the help of a skilled birth attendant. Many women avoid seeking healthcare in Timor-Leste, which contributes to the low maternal mortality rate. Several factors deter women from going to a hospital when giving birth including distance to health facilities, attaining permission from husbands and families to go to the hospital and inadequacy of health professionals.
Timor-Leste also has a very high fertility rate, with each woman having an average of 5.9 children. “This risk of Timorese women dying during childbirth is also increased because of the many pregnancies and births each woman has,” said an official with AusAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid program.
The only way to improve maternal mortality rates is to strengthen the quality and the number of health services in rural areas. HADIAK and the Ministry of Health are working to educate women about the importance of seeking health services when giving birth.
“We work on improving the quality of health services at the community level, and also provide training for health workers, including doctors and midwives, and community members,” said Ferdous.
– Catherine Ulrich