Thursday, March 4, 2010

Disease and Health Care

The most preparation that we all had to attend to before coming here involved vaccinations and medications for the prevention of disease. This precaution has proved to be well spent as so far we have no incidents from our team suffering any major ill effects on the trip. The many stories we’ve heard of people suffering from malaria, TB, and many other diseases here are real and you can see or imagine it as you drive by to very poor ramshackle housing that some live in. The hospital we visited today looked very modern and an example of the new dollars coming into this country but this is the only one and the rest of the country does not benefit from the same quality of service. With the threat of Malaria being particularly high here, each morning during breakfast the ritual of reminding each other to take our malaria pills has a heightened level of seriousness. The issue of health care was a key point the Bishop impressed on us and this is certainly important in Dili but even more importantly in the districts where roads are fewer and the issues in logistics are amplified. We will soon venture out to the districts, though it is plain to see that even in the city health is a key issue for the government here. The National University here now has a medical program to train their own doctors and nurses. This university was started in 1986 by Indonesia in their efforts to win the support of the people and is now a major educator of the youth here as many of the local youth working for NGO’s are using any income gained from it to further increase their studies. The trend, especially during the first few years of UN involvement here, was to send people to foreign countries for training as a form of foreign aid. Such was not the case during the Portuguese era and the Indonesian occupation where only the privileged few were sent out of the country for training. Now as the first doctors started to graduate, they were quickly scooped up by the state to help run and guide their new ministries and creation of policy. As a result there is still a shortage. This is in part why a very established project here which currently has over 300 Cuban doctors in Timor Leste providing the majority of the services in clinics and hospitals both in Dili and throughout the rest of the country.


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