Thursday, April 27, 2017

Joana dos Santos − a committed Mother Support Group member reaching out to mothers

Joana is providing counselling to a mother on the importance of breastfeeding.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/dmonemnasi
It is around mid-day as Joana Carvalho dos Santos (48) reaches Imaculada da Silva’s (30) house. Joana warmly greets her, inviting her into her small house. She could not attend the Mother’s Support Group meeting earlier today as her baby is too little. Imaculada lives with her family in suco (village) Mota Ulun, Liquica.

“This is my third baby. I breastfeed him, but I’m not sure about how often and when I should stop breastfeeding,” Imaculada says to Joana.

Joana physically examines the mother and her baby and provides the necessary guidance. “I didn’t know the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and that my son needs it until he is six months old,” says Imaculada. “I didn’t exclusively breastfeed my two older children. I wish I knew this information before,” Imaculada continues regretfully.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A School Group Hand-Washing Facility: Helping students to change habits

“We know that dirty hands can make us sick and worms could get in our stomachs
 if we eat food without washing our hands,” says Talia de Oliveira, (12) student of
Bairopite Primary School. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
“I wash my hands as soon as I come to school. We know that dirty hands can make us sick and worms could get in our stomachs if we eat food without washing our hands,” says Talia de Oliveira (12), while she was washing her hands with soap before the meal break at Bairopite Primary School. She explains, “As I may have been holding something dirty I am keen to use soap to wash my hands before eating.”

Celestino da Costa Novo (12), standing almost a head shorter than Talia, was also washing his hands. With his spiky hair and his cheeky grin, he declares that the school’s hand-washing facility “helps us make sure we have good health and that’s very good for our future!”

Washing hands with soap is now common practice among the students of the Bairopite Primary School, situated in the area of Bairopite in Dili, Timor-Leste’s capital. Bairopite is one of the more recently settled areas of Dili; many of the buildings are small, concrete, slightly thrown-together in appearance with tin rooves and little in the way of gardens. Educating the area’s many children, the school, in contrast, is well constructed, surrounded by a wall with a brightly coloured cartoon mural on the outside.

With ten classrooms and toilets supplied with water through a functioning pump/tank system, the school is catering to the needs of more than 750 students. According to the EMIS report 2016 of Timor-Leste's Ministry of Education, only 28 per cent of the country’s schools has daily use of running water and just 40 per cent of schools have toilets. The school is certainly beating these statistics.

The Group Hand-Washing Facility makes things better
The school had the minimal infrastructure for running water but often faced challenges in meeting the students’ needs. In 2015, the school - jointly with Vila Verde Primary School - received a group hand-washing facility from the Ministry of Education as part of the basic hygiene programme supported by UNICEF. These two schools were selected to have installed a low cost but effective hand-washing facility.

Clean hands mean good health. Celcia Soares Baros, 6 years,
rubs her hands thoroughly with soap at Escola Vila Verde in Dili.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
The mechanism is simple but effective. The facility is designed for 48 children to wash their hands with soap at a time. The metal structure has a long trough to catch and drain away the grey water and above a fixed parallel pipe − from which pieces of soap hang at regular intervals − drips water at a steady rate, when the water is turned on. The introduction of the new hand-washing device was beneficial for the students as well as for the teachers.

“The school used to use water buckets that had to be carried to the classrooms for the students to wash their hands. It took a lot of time and it was hard work!” says Guilhermina de Jesus, who has taught at the school since 2000. “Teachers were all very relieved when the hand-washing facility was installed. It means we don’t have to throw away all the dirty water – that was the biggest problem with using buckets,” Guilhermina continues. “The facility works very well and it is much easier to make sure the students all have clean hands to eat their food.”

Although the school day is divided into three teaching shifts based on class levels (7−10.30 am; 10.30 am −2 pm; 2−5.30 pm), that is still many pairs of hands that need to be clean at one time!

Bringing change by raising awareness
Students like Talia have learned basic hygiene practices as part of hygiene promotion taught at school. Talia demonstrates her learning as she recounts, “I guide my younger nieces and nephews at home to wash their hands after using the toilet”. This is a sign that the hand-washing message is going through to some students’ families.

With close to half of Timor-Leste’s population under the age of 18, Talia’s message reinforcement is helping the children who will eventually follow her to school to gain some of the basics in hygiene. Hopefully, through improved hygiene, children will get sick less often and so miss less school, a factor that can help reduce the current primary school repetition rate of 15 percent (Source: EMIS 2015).

Handwashing does not only keep germs at bay –
it's also a fun for the students of Bairopite Primary School in Dili.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2017/ahelin
“Once the students hear the signal to announce that class is over for lunch break, without being told, they line up on the veranda to wash their hands,” says Guilhermina. “The students are very enthusiastic about washing their hands. If we teachers are not there to monitor, the hand washing becomes quite lively!”

As Talia and her friends line up to go into class, hands clean and minds ready to learn, it was clear that this group of learners already has an advantage over the rest of their half of the population; they definitely understood the basics of good hygiene. And that, for World Water Day on 22 March, is an important step and contribution towards meeting Timor-Leste’s commitments to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 on Quality Education, and 6 on Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for all.

By, Emma Coupland, UNICEF Consultant

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Working together to stop open defecation in Bobonaro

Justino de Jesus and his family proudly showing his toilet.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/rpereira
Justino de Jesus (46) is living with his family in the mountainous village in Atu-Abe suco (village) of Bobonaro sub-district. The village is recently declared as open defecation free (ODF).

“We used to go to the bush for defecation, but since the beginning of 2016, after building this latrine with the facilitation of a local non-government organization, we stopped going to the bush and are using the latrine. All households in Atu-Abe suco have built and are using toilets. So now things have changed, and suco Atu-Abe is open defecation free,” says Justino de Jesus.

“The NGO Facilitator discussed with us the cycle of contamination of shit with food through flies, and we started to realise that it is true that we were actually eating our own Te’e (feces in local language) every day. Therefore we decided to build our own latrine. We used some money from our business of selling vegetables to build the latrine.”

“I can see the change, earlier my family members frequently suffered from diarrheal diseases, but now my family and community members in Atu-Abe village are getting fewer diarrhoea diseases,” says Miranda Mafalda, wife of Justino.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

UNICEF’s 70th anniversary celebrated with a call “For Every Child, Love and Care” in Timor-Leste

Dili, 12 Dec, 2016: With a call “For Every Child, Love and Care”- the Government of Timor-Leste hosted a celebration of UNICEF’s 70th anniversary with renewed commitment to ensure love and care for every child. A musical concert, photo exhibition as well as a release of 70 balloons and a brief display of fireworks marked the anniversary of UNICEF held in Dili, Timor-Leste.

Releasing 70 balloons to mark the 70th anniversary of UNICEF by H.E. Nelio Isaac Sarmento, the Secretary of State for Social Communication, Maria Baretto, Child Rights Commissioner of Timor-Leste, UN Resident Coordinator Knut Ostby and Desiree Jongsma.  @UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/ Clementino
The Secretary of State for Social Communication, in partnership with UNICEF, organised the concert, involving performances by famous Timorese singers, artists and band groups in order to celebrate this special event. In between songs and performances, musicians called upon parents, caregivers, and teachers to ensure a violence-free, loving and caring environment for all Timorese children. The event was broadcast on television and radio, reaching around 80 per cent population of the country.

Congratulating UNICEF for its extraordinary work for children around the world and in Timor-Leste, Nelio Isaac Sarmento, the Secretary of State for Social Communication, the Government of Timor-Leste in his inaugural speech expressed his appreciation for UNICEF’s valuable contributions for children and women of Timor-Leste. His speech was echoed by the audiences during the event with slogan “UNICEF Hadomi Labarik, Viva UNICEF,”  and round of applause, in the local language which means “UNICEF love Children, long live UNICEF.”

Amongst the several dignitaries attending were also the Child Rights Commissioner and the UN Resident Coordinator. 

In a brief speech in a local language (Tetum), Desiree Jongsma, the UNICEF Representative highlighted, “Every child should enjoy protection, receive health services, adequate nutrition, and get the opportunity to learn in a child-friendly environment, be it is in Dili or any remote village of Timor-Leste”. In addition, she added that this anniversary entails a good moment for reflection, while “We look ahead, with hope and determination, to a better future and a fair chance for all the world’s children”. She called upon all present to work together to ensure health, nutrition, education and protection for every child, with love and compassion.

Photo Exhibition: Bringing History Alive
The photo exhibition of UNICEF’s work at the event brought alive memories about the past to many of the Timorese. As one of the youngest countries in the world, the memories of the struggle for independence is still vivid in many Timorese’ minds attended the concert.  Joao da Costa, UNICEF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and an earlier freedom fighter himself became rather emotional while he saw his own photo with Carol Bellamy, former UNICEF Executive Director, at the exhibition. “It was 2002 in Manatuto where we were attending a ceremony of rehabilitation of Maabat Primary School which was burnt during the conflict in 1999. During that time UNICEF provided support to rehabilitate schools in many places. At that point, I was working as UNICEF Education Officer at UNICEF Sub-Office for Matebian Region which covered Baucau Manatuto, Viqueque and Lautem districts.” Filled with emotion, holding his little daughter on his arm, Joao remembered the struggle of liberation war.

 Joao da Costa, UNICEF’s Monitoring and Evaluation Officer and an earlier freedom fighter himself became rather emotional while he saw his own photo with Carol Bellamy, former UNICEF Executive Director, at the exhibition.@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/Clementino 

 The Child Rights Commissioner, Mery Barreto, was seen leading a group of children explaining them about the photos presented at the exhibition.
The Child Rights Commissioner, Maria Baretto, explaining a photo took in 2001 to a group of children while Desiree Jongsma, UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste also joined to the group. 
Photo credit:@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/ Clementino

 The exhibition was organised as a side event at the concert venue and illustrated UNICEF works in Timor-Leste and around the world.

Songs and Dances- Brave the Rain
The concert began with a favourite song of “When the children cry…” sung by Baby Keyla, followed by famous artists one by one including Lola and Oggy Ozman. Mesmerised performances of the artists braved the sudden torrent rain, children, adult irrespective of age joined dancing and singing.
1691: Mesmerised performance of singer Keyla and her group during the concert. 
Photo credit: @UNICEF Timor-Leste/2016/ DMonemnasi
During the event, the evening skyline of Dili briefly turned spectacular and colourful as the firework began with a festive mood while releasing 70 balloons with a plaque card on 70th Anniversary of UNICEF. The singers sang John Lennon’s famous “Imagine” song to remind everyone about the importance of love and care in today’s world.

-Arifa S. Sharmin
Communication Specialist