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Baseline assessment for maternal and newborn care in Timor Leste. MCH in Developing Countries January 12, 2010. Timor-Leste (formerly East Timor). A brief history of East Timor. Colonized by the Portuguese 1515-1974 Illegally invaded and brutally occupied by Indonesia 1975-1999

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baseline assessment for maternal and newborn care in timor leste
Baseline assessment formaternal and newborn carein Timor Leste

MCH in Developing Countries

January 12, 2010

a brief history of east timor
A brief history of East Timor
  • Colonized by the Portuguese 1515-1974
  • Illegally invaded and brutally occupied by Indonesia 1975-1999
  • In 1999, the East Timorese overwhelmingly voted for independence from Indonesia
  • In May 2002 East Timor became the independent nation of Timor-Leste

Timorese suffered untold abuses of human rights at the hands of the Indonesian military during 24 years of illegal occupation


After the 1999 referendum, the military and their militias carried out a campaign of violence that destroyed 75-80% of the country’s infrastructure.


After 3 weeks, the violence was ended by an international peace keeping force led by the UN in September 1999. In 2002 the UN transferred government functions to the Timorese.


A subsistence agriculture economy, with

very high urban unemployment



Timor-Leste is the

poorest country

in Asia: 40% of

the population

living under the

international poverty



Basic Health Statistics

  • Maternal Mortality Rate = 660-800/100,000†
  • Infant Mortality Rate = 84/1,000††
  • Neonatal Mortality Rate = 43/1,000 ††
  • Under 5 Mortality Rate = 109/1,000 ††
  • Life Expectancy at birth = 62 †††

† Data Source: Health Profile: Democratic Republic of Timor Leste

†† Data Source: TL DHS 2003

†††Data Source: The World Bank Group, Timor Leste Data Profile


Maternal Mortality Ratio: a country comparison

Data Source: United Nations Statistics Division – Demographic, Social and Housing Statistics


The total fertility in 2003 was the highest recorded

in the world – 7.8 (post-conflict “rebound” fertility)

language four languages were in active use
Language – four languages were in active use:

percent fluent (2003):

Women Men

Tetum74% 80%

Portuguese 1.2% 2.3%

Indonesian 22% 32%

English 0.2% 0.2%


Health facilities access -- Rural populations have moved back to their ancestral homes, and so health services were less accessible than previously

timorese trained human resource pool was very small health system still under development
Timorese trained human resource pool was very small, health system still under development
  • Approximately 20 Timorese physicians at time of independence
  • A large pool of trained midwives, but suboptimal training, little management/leadership experience
  • Smaller MOH staff (IMF restrictions on total health staff numbers) than previously
  • Multiple uncoordinated international agencies in operation
  • Very little routinely collected health data available
challenge low health care utilization due to traditional beliefs distrust of the health system
Challenge: Low health care utilization (due to ? traditional beliefs, distrust of the health system)
  • Historically, utilization in Timor was lower than many of the Indonesian provinces
  • Traditional beliefs about health and healing remain very strong, traditional healers prominent
  • 90% of deliveries occur at home, most without a skilled birth attendant
  • Antenatal care 44%, postpartum and newborn care virtually nil
  • Contraceptive prevalence 8.5%
timorese strengths
Timorese Strengths
  • Strong and determined people
  • Revitalization of ancient, traditional culture and ‘national’ identity
  • Health personnel now in training both nationally and internationally
  • Strong MOH leadership
  • Timor oil reserves should provide economic boost in future years
the assessment
The Assessment
  • Health Facility / Staff Assessment in 4 districts
      • District health team questionnaire
      • Interviews / observations at 32 clinics
        • 30 clinic managers
        • 4 nurses and 46 midwives
        • 49 mothers attending clinic
      • Focus group discussions with midwives
  • Community Assessment in 2 districts
      • Focus group discussions with leaders, men and women
      • Interviews with mothers
      • Interviews with dukuns(TBAs)
  • Review of data for recent DHS Survey
key findings from the hfa
Key Findings from the HFA:
  • Clinics
    • Lack adequate space for ANC/delivery: not private, not clean, not staffed at night and not inclusive of cultural traditions. No place for care/resuscitation of the baby.
    • Limited amenities for deliveries: water and electricity often not available.
    • Lack adequate logistics for emergency referral: lack communication, insufficient transport (ambulances and fuel budgets), 2 health centers and 18 health posts have no road access in wet season.
    • Supplies: Shortages of some basic medications and family planning supplies. No equipment/supplies for neonatal care and resuscitation at birth.
Content of services:
    • Limited health education activities
    • ANC includes little or no counseling
    • No regular system for postnatal care of mothers/newborns
      • few postpartum home visits (transport, distance)
      • few babies are seen at HF before 1month of age (seclusion)
    • Very few outreach activities to communities
    • No health activities for MCH include men
    • Most mobile clinics do not do ANC (and none do postnatal care)
pregnancy period
Pregnancy period
  • Women tend to understand the importance of antenatal care and will go for care when it is reasonably accessible
  • Some women also seek care from dukuns, or traditional birth attendants
  • Most women take traditional medicines during pregnancy, have other traditional practices to safeguard the pregnancy
  • Some fear taking iron tablets or vitamins fearing a large baby and difficult delivery

Delivery practices

  • Little understanding of value of a skilled birth attendant for a ‘normal’ delivery
  • Strong preference for a home delivery
  • Traditional home delivery practices:
    • dark, private location on specially-built bed of bamboo, with labor, delivery, and postpartum period by an open fire
    • ample use of hot water for compresses, drinking, bathing
    • active role of the husband during labor
    • rope hanging from the ceiling to assist with pushing during the final stages
    • placenta is treated carefully, either buried in/near the home or hung in a tree
postpartum period
Postpartum period
  • The practice of postpartum care provided by a midwife or nurse is virtually nonexistent
  • Traditional ways of caring for mothers following delivery include 40 days of seclusion by a fire (“sitting fire”), special foods, hot water to drink/bathe with, and rest
newborn period
Newborn period
  • “Newborn care” = clinic visit for immunizations at age 1 month
  • Universal breastfeeding, but with early supplementation, often no colostrum given
  • Parents often recognize the signs of newborn illness
  • Newborn morbidity/mortality are often ascribed to supernatural (or social) causes, so often a delay in seeking medical attention
  • At age 3-5 days, special family ceremony and feast to welcome the new baby (fasematan), including the birth attendant
question how might you use these baseline findings to develop one or two activities to promote
Question: how might you use these baseline findings to develop one or two activities to promote:
  • Antenatal care?
  • Use of a skilled birth attendant?
  • An early postpartum check?
  • An early newborn care check?