non-communicable disease

Clean Hands Save Lives

Reporting by Zoe Hogan, ChildFund Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste has some of the highest rates of maternal and child mortality in the world. More than 5 percent of Timorese children die before their fifth birthday, in comparison to 0.4 percent and 0.8 percent of children in Australia and the U.S., respectively, according to UNICEF reports.

Through health, water and sanitation projects, ChildFund is working to save children’s lives by increasing community knowledge about the prevention and treatment of common diseases.

men and women at exhibit booth

ChildFund Timor-Leste staff, led by National Director Dr. Geoffrey Ezepue (third from right), meet with government representatives, led by Health Minister Dr. Nelson Martins (fourth from right) and President of the Commission F of the National Parliament, Virgilio Maria Dias Marcal (far right).

Last week, the Ministry of Health in Timor-Leste organized a national conference on non-communicable diseases. ChildFund was one of the conference exhibitors, setting up an educational booth about our community health programs in Timor-Leste. Staff members provided antibacterial soap, health information and hand-washing advice to conference attendees and passersby, including university students, local children, academics and dignitaries.

man demonstrates hand washing

Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao discusses hand washing with ChildFund Timor-Leste WASH Project Manager Sigit Pramono.

The exhibit caught the attention of Timor-Leste’s Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao, who spent 10 minutes at ChildFund’s booth, demonstrating proper hand-washing techniques with ChildFund Timor-Leste staff.

Hosted by the Ministry of Health, ChildFund Timor-Leste, Church World Service and the World Health Organization, the conference, held in the capital city of Dili, sought to improve collaboration and strategic planning between government and NGOs in the health sector.

“People who are poor or who live in underserved communities have less access to medical care and good nutrition,” said Dr. Nelson Martins, Timor-Leste Health Minister. “They face greater environmental health hazards and are harder to reach through outreach and education efforts. So as we move forward, we understand that we must also address the social and economic factors that can put people at greater risk for chronic disease.”

children and youth wash hands

ChildFund staff members show local children how to wash their hands properly.

Martins also visited the ChildFund booth, asking numerous questions about ChildFund Timor-Leste’s health projects in rural communities.

Throughout the conference, ChildFund staff engaged young people at the event, with competitions to test their hand-washing and fingernail-cutting techniques. In partnership with the Alola Foundation, ChildFund also ran a trivia quiz about nutrition and maternal health. Nearly 250 conference-goers participated in these fun and educational activities. Prizes included practical items like towels, nail cutters and T-shirts.

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