Thursday, December 10, 2015

Helping babies grow healthy in Timor-Leste

Francisco, a 14-month old malnourished child receiving treatment
from the sub-district community health center at Bobonaro.
©UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Snazer
Carmelita Moniz lives in Aldeia Oalgomo, a small, remote village in the west of Timor-Leste sitting on a wind-swept hill surrounded by dry bush, sweeping down into the valleys below. Carmelita, holding her son, has had a difficult motherhood. She lost two children within days of being born, and she discovered that her 14 months old son was severely malnourished.

“When Francisco was one, they found that he was severely malnourished when I went to immunize him at the health centre,” says Carmelita, holding Francisco, surrounded by on looking villagers.

“I live with my whole family in this small house, including my grandmother,” she says. “We produce corn and peanuts and we store some of it here and sell a little. We eat corn every day. We boil it and mix it with some beans. If we can afford it, we’ll also have some rice”.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Toilets for change in Timor-Leste

Inspired by Mapeop village’s efforts to build toilets,
pupils at a local school helped build their own safe, clean toilet.
© UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Simon Nazer
“I was shocked!” laughs Jorge de Jesus, a young father of two who introduced himself as “Rambo”. “When the guy took some hair covered in “tee” [poop] and put it in a bottle of water, he asked if we wanted to drink it! People got angry - of course not!”

That was the moment members of Mapeop, a small remote village high in hills of Timor-Leste in Bobonaro province, started to understand that having a toilet was far more important than they ever imagined. The hair symbolized the legs of a fly, and was used to show villagers how feaces can be carried around into their water and food.

“With the facilitator, we started by mapping everything out together on the floor,” said the village head, Sergio da Costa Magelhaens. “We marked our homes, our water sources, and where we defecated… we then started to understand how dangerous it was to go in the open.”

Friday, November 13, 2015

Building future leaders through the Youth Parliament Programme

Timor-Leste Youth Parliamentarians are voting for an idea
during the special occasion of the First Annual Sitting of the newly elected
Youth Parliamentarians to build consensus among the members on youth programmes.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/Aemguterres
“We have no proper road to commute from my village Malelat, it took four hours by truck to reach to the point from where I took a boat to cross the river. Altogether, it was a 13-hour journey from my village to the capital, Dili,” Maria Fatima Sila,  a 14- year old youth parliamentarian shared her experience while talking about her journey to attend a skill development training in Dili organised by the Secretariat of State for Youth and Sports (SYSS) supported by UNICEF.

“I am happy that I could make it. I would like to draw the political leaders’ attention to problems we are facing in our everyday life.  In my community, many children are out of school, and parents are not much aware of the benefits of education and the health of their children,” Maria continues.

“We would like to act as a bridge to bring local issues to the national level. Through various training and exposure visits supported by UNICEF, we have prepared ourselves, and now we are able to confidently communicate with policy makers, local leaders and the community,” says Ambrocio P. Colo (15), a representative of Bobocasee village of Oecusse district. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Hope for the future: Investing in girls’ education in Timor-Leste

UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Simon Nazer  
Delfina and Esperança, left to right, now have a quality education thanks
to a UNICEF supported child-friendly school
In Lauana Groto, a dry, dusty village high in the remote hills of Timor-Leste, families struggle day-to-day to get by. For adolescents like Delfina and Esperança, education offers hope of a better future.
A new child friendly school, constructed and equipped with UNICEF’s support, is offering children and adolescents a safe, healthy and protective environment with the tools and facilities to learn better.
Delfina and Esperança, both 13, are seizing the opportunity to learn with both hands.
UNICEF EAPRO/2015/Simon Nazer                   
UNICEF constructed a child friendly school and provided materials and teacher training
in Lauana Groto village, Timor-Leste

Monday, October 5, 2015

Collective efforts to stop open defecation in villages

Afonso Salsinha Trindade (56) and his family happy with their newly built latrine. 
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Rbhusal
Afonso Salsinha Trindade (56) lives in the mountainous village in Matata suco of Ermera sub-district with his family. The village is one of the sucos (village) of Ermera recently declared as open defecation free. 
“My family has been using a pit latrine since 2003, yet I never felt comfortable as majority of my neighbors were still practicing open defecation. Now things have changed and suco Matata is open defecation free,” says Afonso.

“The pit latrine gets full every four to five years and I have to dig a new pit in a new location though it does not cost any money. Digging a pit was the most difficult part, but my husband with the help of my sons managed to do it in two days,” says Silvia, wife of Afonso.

Working together
In 2009, UNICEF provided support to Matata suco to build latrines for 195 out of 215 households with subsidized materials. “According to a latrine utilization survey 2013 by the Ministry of Health over 70 per cent of latrines were in usable condition, but merely 18 per cent families’ reported that they are always using the latrines. The District Public Health Officer of Ermera was surprised by this resulted and proposed UNICEF to support the Suco Matata to improve the latrine utilization rate,” says Rodolfo Pereira, WASH Officer of UNICEF who was involve in implementation of the project since the beginning.

“The issue was more related to behavior and practice, than the supply. In consultation with the Suco Chief, we organized meetings with the community members explaining how the fecal materials contaminated water and food and was causing health problems. The meeting lead to form a Community Lead Total Sanitation (CLTS) group,” Rodolfo continues.

Initiating change
“After discussions we realized that we were eating our shit by defecating in the bush and not washing our hands with soap after using the toilet”, says Gil Lobato Pereira, Suco Leader. “In the past, many families did not use the latrine due to a lack of water for flushing the toilet, and we used to go to the toilet in the bush. Things have started changing after the meeting held in last year.  Within a period of three months 20 households that did not have a latrine built their latrine and started using them. The biggest achievement was in hand washing with soap as all 215 households built or designated a place for hand washing and water and soap was available for use.”
Community members are sharing their experiences among the audiences in a public meeting.
©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Rbhusal
“By declaring our suco an open defecation free area, I and our four aldeia xefes (chief of a designated area) made a commitment to continually motivate people for keeping our villages open defecation free forever,” confirms Gil, the Suco Chief who played an active role in promoting CLTS activities.

“ There was a time when people used to feel offended about using word ‘Tee’(faeces), discussing faeco-oral route and ingesting faeces. With CLTS intervention, people are now discussing these challenges more openly,” says Gilberto Rodrigues, the Director of NGO HIM, implementing partner of UNICEF for CLTS intervention in Ermera.

Sharing responsibilities
Several families have installed a rainwater collection tank to use the water for toilets and hand washing. In addition, communities have also initiated a village law (Tarabandu) in their suco that any family building permanent house must include a permanent toilet in their yard. If not, the suco will impose a penalty on the family,” says proudly the xefe suco Pereira.
Two of the five sub-districts -Railaco and Ermera Villa- in the Ermera district
declared as open defecation free.  ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Rbhusal
“Communities should collectively take the lead to make their villages open defecation free. Even the families that have and use latrines are not safe if their neighbors are practicing open defecation as the pigs, dogs and flies have no boundaries and they contaminate food and water with Tee (faeces in local language),” says Joni Alves, the District Public Health Officer while addressing the meeting with the villagers. 

“CLTS is not about building latrines but about stopping open defecation and washing hands with soap at critical times so that we don’t ingest our won Tee,’” reiterates Joni while interacting with community members.

Changing practice
“Children of Matata have immensely benefited from CLTS programme. Now they have toilet and hand washing facilities in their school but they also enjoy same and comforts in their homes. Since the beginning of the CLTS activity in our sub-district in 2012, the intestinal diseases among children have gone down, fewer number of children come to clinic for diarrhoea complains,” says Antonio de Deus, the chief of Community Health Centre of Railaco Sub-district, Ermera.
“In our family everybody uses the toilet and wash their hands with soap after using toilet”,
says Bendizela Fransisca, a 10-year old 4th grade student. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Rbhusal
“In our family everybody uses the toilet and wash their hands with soap after using toilet,” says Bendizela Fransisca, a 10-year old 4th grade student. “In school, teachers teach us on the importance of hand washing with soap after using the toilet, and at home my mother is very particular about it. We have a locally made hand washing stand near the toilet and it is very convenient for me to wash hands,” confirms Bendizela on her way out from the toilet.

In partnership with government and local NGO, UNICEF provides support to the Ermera district in scaling up CLTS. Out of 52 sucos, 30 are now open defecation free. “It is a great achievement that two of the five sub-districts -Railaco and Ermera Villa- in the Ermera district are verified as open defecation free. So we should organize a sub-district ODF ceremony as well. By celebrating this achievement we can motivate other sub-districts to accelerate the CLTS process in their areas,” says Joni with passion.

By Ramesh Bhusal, Chief WASH Section

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Helping peers in learning at school

Epifania (11) is one of many students in her school
benefitting from the Child Friend Schools (CFS) approach,
known as “Eskola Foun” in local language. ©UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Sgmartins
Like today, every afternoon Epifania (11), works together with her  peers and classmates to complete their homework at her house in Aiteas Suco (village) of Manatuto district which is 67 kilometre east of Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste.

With care and patience, Epifania leads and guides her peers and classmates to complete their weekly tasks and assignments. Epifania Gomes, is a 6th grade student of the Ensinio Basico Filial Rentau School in Manatuto district of Timor-Leste.

Friday, August 28, 2015

“Fetching Two Buckets of Water”- Extracts of Field Diary

During mid-August’15, I much enjoyed as UNICEF Representative in Timor-Leste to make my first visit to Oe-Cusse, which is an enclave located 80 km west of contiguous East Timor, surrounded by Indonesian West Timor, comprising about 15 per cent of Timor-Leste’s territory.  Timor-Leste is the second youngest country in the world, and is faced with multiple  development challenges.  Nearly half of its population is younger than 18, and about 70 per cent of the population live in rural areas.

UNICEF Representative Desiree  Jongsma spend time with
 the students in the newly constructed school building of Escola 
Basica Filial Baocnana in Oe-Cusse. Leste/2015/Rbhusal

Wherever I worked for UNICEF - whether in Cambodia, India, Laos, North-Korea, Sierra Leone, and Sri Lanka, or now currently in Timor-Leste - visiting our work on the ground is very helpful to understand the challenges faced by our supported programmes. In particular, it helps me to better plan and monitor our concerted efforts towards contributing to an equity focused future for children and their families.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Washing hands in a group - an initiative to promote healthy hygiene practice in school

Children are lined up, approaching as a group to the handwashing facility set at the school yard before they have their midday meal at the Escola Basica Filial Vila Verde School. The six meter long tub with running water and soap hanged in front, provides access to the students to wash hands with soap.  The class teacher keeps an eye on that student’s maintained discipline and wash their hands with soap in an appropriate manner. This is an everyday scenario at the school now a days before mid-day meal. 

“The aim of the initiative is to improve health of the children in our school by introducing appropriate and affordable handwashing facility,” said Adelaide de Sá Benevides, 62, School Coordinator. This practice will not only protect children from the disease but also help them to develop safe hygiene practice in their everyday life,” she continued.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Immunization campaign gaining momentum to protect children of Timor-Leste

Hera sub-district is half an hour drive from Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. Today’s morning is different than any other days for the inhabitants of this small township. The playground in front of the Hera Primary School is already full of children and parents. The presence of local popular singer brings festivity to the event.

Like many mothers, Flanita de Jesus (22) and Ilda de Carvalho (19) are also awaiting with their babies to receive free vaccines against diseases such as measles, rubella, and polio.

Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, the Prime Minster of Timor-Leste
 inaugurated the immunization campaign
by giving polio drops to a student in Hera, Dili.
© WHO Timor-Leste/2015/Kreidy
Dr Rui Maria de Araújo, the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste inaugurates the immunization campaign by administrating an injection to a boy in presence of the Health Minister Dr. Maria do Céu Sarmento Pina da Costa, Education Minister Dulce de Jesus Soares, WHO Representative Dr. Rajesh Pandav, UNICEF Representative Desiree M. Jongsma and other dignitaries.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Bringing good nutrition to the most in need

Malnutrition is a major concern in Timor-Leste with 50.2 per cent childhood stunting.  UNICEF is working with the most vulnerable families to combat malnutrition in partnership with the government and supported by the European Union. 

Expand the slideshow to full screen and click 'show info' on the top right to see the captions and follow the story.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Defying the Odds, Dreaming Big

UNICEF staff interacting with Nina during a visit
to the shelter in Atabae, Bobonaro District
© UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Opinto
It is a rainy day in Atabae, a remote sub-district of Maliana District, which borders West-Timor. People are busy doing daily chores.  The scenario is not very different in the “Maria Tapo” shelter home situated on the outskirts of Atabae.

Nina*,12,  has just arrived from school along with other children. Her clothes are soaked from the rain but she smiles when she sees Jose Henrique, the Child Protection Officer who saved her from uncle’s house who used to routinely abuse her.

Coping with Natural Disaster: Building Resilience

Joao de Jesus Araujo, the eight-grade student of the Maumeta Basic Education Central School, Remexio of Aileu district attending emergency orientation session along with his classmates.
UNICEF Timor-Leste/Joao de Jesus
Mountainous village Maumeta of Aileu is two hours’ drive from Dili, capital of Timor-Leste. Inhabitants of this village are living with natural disaster as part of their life.

“Flood, strong wind, lightning and landslide are common disasters we face every year in our village,” says Zeremias Martin (14), while talking about natural disaster.

“It was mid-January 2015, when heavy rain and strong winds accompanied by lightning occurred in Maumeta village and lasted for a week. This is not something new for the villagers as our village is located at the mountain area. This time we are able to handle the situation better with support from my teachers, neighbours and fellow students; thanks to the training that we received on disaster risk reduction,” says Joao de Jesus Araujo, a 19 -year old, 8th-grade student of Maumeta Basic Education Central School, Remexio.

Nutrition project brings hope

Glorindo Pereira, 18 months with his mother Silvina da Silva (37 years old)
and his father Oscar BM Carmona (41 years old)
@UNICEF Timor-Leste/2015/Mpgoncalves
18-month-old Glorindos Pereira is playing on his mother’s lap. His smiles and playful face bring contentment to his parents. It is hard to believe that he was struggling for life only a month before. The memory of that night is still alive in Silvina da Silva’s (37), Glorindos’s mother’s mind.

Glorindos was suffering from a cold but his parents did not notice that the poor child was also suffering from a breathing problem. They thought it was a common illness of children of his age and that he would be fine. “All of a sudden, at night, I noticed something was seriously wrong, my baby was struggling to breath. At one point, I thought I am losing my baby,” says Silvina while sharing her experiences. Glorindos family lives in Rita-Bou village in Maliana and he is  his parents’ fifth child.