News: Reducing infant/maternal mortality in Timor-Leste by Mary Seong

Healthcare provision in Timor is one of the biggest challenges. Only 30 percent of deliveries are assisted by a health professional, with only 22 percent of all deliveries done at health facilities. Reducing maternal and neonatal mortality rates is reliant on a high prevalence of births being attended by health professionals.

Baucau is the 2nd largest city in Timor Leste. Triloka, a district of Baucau, is 15km from Baucau. It is sub-divided into many small villages which are called “Suco”. My husband and I took up our new placements here as volunteers with the Foundation of the Good Crocodile as Doctor and midwife respectively in November 2013. The clinic in Triloka is staffed with 10 local Timorese with a variety of skills. We help each other and multitask. The “accountant” is seen cooking in the kitchen preparing our meals, in the absence of the usual cook. It is very much a family concept.

I started in November with a local midwife who came on her days off to help. Having midwives in their village means pregnant mothers have the choice to birth closer to home rather than travel to Baucau Hospital which is 15km away. Most families do not have transport and depend on local transport which is the small minibuses (microlets). Roads are unpaved and inaccessible in wet seasons. Infant and maternal mortality rates are high as potential complications are missed with non-compliance during the antenatal period.

With the use of the portable scan, mal-presentation and complications like low lying placenta are now being picked up and the women are now seeing the importance of regular antenatal/postnatal surveillance. Potential risks are discussed and early referral made to hospital specialists. This will hopefully reduce the infant and maternal mortality rates which are around 44 deaths per 1000 births.

Educational talks were introduced during the consultation days. Most women will turn up around the same time and do not mind waiting for long periods before they are being seen. This can take up to 3 hours. One of the staff started holding educational talks around nutrition and immunization whenever she has a chance.

The Foundation has built a new maternity centre to replace the clinic about 2 km away. Hopefully when the new maternity centre opens in March the vision for a safe birthing centre for the villages around Triloka will be met.

First birth for Mary Seong in the little clinic of Triloka.
Mary Seong-small

Read more about Mary’s Placement 

Mary and Andrew’s expertise will be of great benefit to the people of the Baucau district as they work closely with local staff to improve standards of health care. We need your help to support this important work. Please click donate and pledge a monthly contribution during their placement.

australianunity Palms Australia gratefully acknowledges the support of Australian Unity towards Mary Seong’s placement.

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