Healthcare Sector of Timor-Leste
Timor-Leste is a young country, and has been facing many difficulties since its independence. One of these difficulties is trying to improve the currently underdeveloped healthcare sector of Timor-Leste.

Timor-Leste’s History of Instability

Timor-Leste only officially became a sovereign nation on May 20, 2002. This came after years of violence and turmoil that led to much of the infrastructure in the nation being destroyed. With the destruction of this infrastructure, along with the casualties caused by the violence, many citizens of Timor-Leste were left unemployed and living in poverty. Another result of this violence was the sudden decline in healthcare professionals. Many of the nation’s doctors and specialists left the country during this time, leaving the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste unable to adequately care for all of its citizens.

This combination of poverty and lack of healthcare professionals has been problematic in Timor-Leste in recent decades. In 2017, 41.8 percent of the population of Timor-Leste was living below the poverty line, and as a result of this poverty, many individuals do not have the means to travel long distances when seeking medical attention. Due to the lack of healthcare professionals, clinics and hospitals are not easily accessible to all parts of the nation. Because of this, many individuals cannot get treatment for illnesses that would otherwise be preventable, and this leads to an increased spread of disease.

Improving the Healthcare Sector of Timor-Leste

The government of Timor-Leste has recognized this problem and is taking steps to improve the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste. The government created a Strategic Development Plan that it aims to complete by 2030, which details how it intends to improve the health system for the citizens of Timor-Leste. The three areas that it identifies as needing improvement are health services delivery, human resources for health and health infrastructure.

Part of the government’s plan to improve health services is to increase the number of health facilities in Timor-Leste. By 2030, Timor-Leste intends to have enough health centers to service the entire nation and to have each center equipped with the professionals needed to properly run it.

In addition to the government of Timor-Leste recognizing the importance of improving the healthcare sector of Timor-Leste, independent organizations in the nation are also working towards achieving a healthier Timor-Leste. The Jesuit mission in Timor-Leste opened the Centro de Saúde Daniel Ornelas health center in September of 2017. This health center will provide medical services to the students and staff of Colégio de Santo Inácio de Loiola and Instituto São João de Brito, as well as the local community of Ulmera and the greater Liquiçá district. The citizens in these areas did not have sufficient access to healthcare facilities in the past, and the opening of this health center will help to meet this need.

The healthcare sector of Timor-Leste is still recovering from the turmoil that the nation experienced while gaining its sovereignty, but it can be seen that Timor-Leste is not a nation doomed to survive without sufficient access to health services for its citizens forever. Between the commitment that the government of Timor-Leste has made to improving the health of its citizens, and groups such as the Jesuits in Timor-Leste working to improve the health of their own community, a healthier Timor-Leste is well on its way.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: U.S. Air Force

medical advancements in Ethiopia
With a population of approximately 106 million, the nation of Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. Along with this large population, Ethiopia also has one of the highest poverty levels in the world and is one of the most underdeveloped countries on the continent.

Due to this underdevelopment, Ethiopia has many medical and healthcare related concerns that have historically not been able to be addressed. Recently, the government of Ethiopia has made the health of its citizens a priority, leading to many medical advancements in Ethiopia.

The current health system in the African nation is unable to provide for over half of its large population. One of the main reasons that Ethiopia has been unable to provide medical care to so much of its citizens is because there are not enough medical facilities in the country, and many people do not have access to the ones that do exist.

According to the World Health Organization, only 75 percent of urban families and about 42 percent of rural households are within walking distance from a hospital. When individuals are able to access a medical facility, they are often met with facilities that are understaffed, have workers with low qualifications and do not have many standard clinical supplies.

One of the ways that medical advancements in Ethiopia are occurring is by working on improving this shortage of medical facilities. An example is the expansion of St. Paul’s hospital in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Though this is an existing medical facility, the expansion will help the hospital take in more citizens than it has previously been able to. Currently, the hospital has between 12 and 14 beds in the emergency room; after the expansion is complete, the emergency room will hold up to 50 beds. This expansion is partially possible because of the partnership between Millennium Medical College in Ethiopia’s capital and the University of Michigan.

Another way in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made is by the nation’s dedication to treating HIV and AIDS. With the help of the United States, the Ethiopian government has committed to providing free treatments for HIV and AIDS. U.S. aid has been a vital part of this effort and has been working to provide the needed treatments. According to USAID, in just one year the number of Ethiopians accessing HIV counseling and testing increased from 500,000 to more than nine million. It is also reported that the number of people on anti-retroviral therapy increased from 900 in 2005 to 394,000 in 2015.

This expansion of current medical facilities and commitment to the treatment of HIV and AIDS are just two ways in which medical advancements in Ethiopia are being made. The University of Michigan has said that Ethiopia is experiencing a “medical revolution,” and it appears that this is just the beginning.

– Nicole Stout

Photo: Flickr


The Link Between Poverty and EpidemicsWhen Bill Gates, the famous humanitarian, entrepreneur and founder of Microsoft, was asked in an interview with Vox about the greatest threat to humanity in the coming decades, his answer was scientific, reasonable and startling. Rather than mentioning the kinds of threats usually brought up in such discussions, dangers such as nuclear weapons, climate change and planet-killing asteroids, Gates pointed to something else with a much higher likelihood of occurrence but with the potential to be just as devastating.

A widespread pandemic is the most likely cause of a mass extinction event in the 21st century, yet despite its relatively high probability of occurring, it remains less discussed than many flashier topics like war and environmental disaster. The last time the risk of pandemic sparked widespread fear and discussion was in 2014, with the spread of the Ebola virus devastating communities in West Africa, and, in rare cases, spreading to other countries as well.

Though the topic has since faded from national conversation, the threat remains real. Even more important, unlike reducing carbon emissions or preventing nuclear proliferation, one major remedy for disease is relatively straightforward and within our capability. The human race could significantly reduce the likelihood of a pandemic disaster by eliminating extreme global poverty.

In 2014, West Africa suffered an outbreak of the Ebola virus, which devastated communities and killed more than 11,000 people by 2016. It also shed international light on the link between poverty and epidemics. Ebola became such a threat in 2014 because the region was impoverished and lacked the basic healthcare infrastructure necessary to fight the outbreak. This allowed the disease to spread at a fierce pace, risking a worldwide epidemic and sparking fears around the globe. Many patients were at first handled without proper caution, which led to an increase in cases and the rapid spread of the virus throughout the region.

If the United States invested more in these countries, especially toward improving their medical infrastructure and quality of life, such spending would not only create a new market for American exports, but it would also decrease the likelihood that a virus-like Ebola could spread without proper defensive strategies from the medical community. If healthcare infrastructure in West Africa had been better in 2014, the outbreak could have been contained much faster and the death toll reduced drastically.

The way in which a given disease spreads and becomes an epidemic is a complicated issue that depends on many factors. Poverty, however, has been shown to be a major determinant of how many people will be infected and how quickly. A World Health Organization report found that poverty in Africa correlated with an increase in the likelihood of contracting HIV, which researchers speculated was due to poor sexual education and high levels of economic disparity in impoverished regions. Similarly, the National Health Institute found in a 2012 report that communicable disease and poverty were linked to one another.

Though correlation did not imply causation, the researchers stressed that it would be foolish to disregard the link between poverty and epidemics, and that environmental conditions like economic status played a major role in the spread of disease. They argued that the link was likely caused by poor education, crippled healthcare infrastructure and the lack of clean water and food, all of which are common in areas suffering from extreme poverty. By investing in the healthcare infrastructure of other nations, the United States could help both itself and the world by reducing the likelihood of a major global pandemic, as the link between poverty and epidemics is a major risk that could become even more dangerous to the future of humanity than nuclear warfare.

– Shane Summers

Photo: Flickr