WHO-Menzies commit to strengthening TL’s health system in combating infectious diseases

WHO-Menzies commit to strengthening TL’s health system in combating infectious diseases

Photo Tatoli/Francisco Sony

DILI, 22 november 2022 (TATOLI) – The World Health Organization (WHO) and Menzies Timor-Leste committed to supporting the Ministry of Health (MoH) in strengthening the national health system to control and combat infectious diseases in the country.

Arvind Mathur, WHO Representative in Timor-Leste, in his speech at the second international health scientific conference on infectious diseases, said that the scientific conference was important as the medical community takes lead to present their studies and findings which are crucial to fight known and unknown pathogens: “Research shapes our future in many ways- the way we prevent diseases, the way we diagnose diseases and the way we will combat diseases.”

He said WHO would continue to provide support through its six over-arching roles to support Timor-Leste in controlling the infectious diseases in the country. 

“Be it pandemics of influenza, SARS, Swine Flu or COVID-19; endemic diseases like TB, Malaria, HIV and Neglected Tropical diseases or outbreaks of cholera, respiratory infections or vector-borne diseases like Dengue, WHO has continued to provide support through its six over-arching roles,” Mathur said at Dili Convention Center (CCD), in Dili, today. 

“First, by providing global leadership in health and health-related matters. This intervention is particularly crucial for infections that do not respect national or international borders and boundaries. Second, by developing ‘norms and standards.’ The third role is that of recommending evidence-based policy options. Using its cutting-edge expertise, the WHO examines the evidence and provides policy options for countries to choose from. Fourth, by providing technical assistance in a wide range of areas. Be it surveillance, prevention, response, or recovery, WHO stands shoulder-to-shoulder with Member States and provides technical assistance to combat the scourge of infectious diseases. And the fifth and sixth, by monitoring the health situations and shaping the research agenda.” 

He said as part of the efforts to strengthen the national capacity to detect and respond to communicable diseases, an integrated disease surveillance and response (IDSR) guideline and system has been established in Timor-Leste, regularly reviewed and updated, which provides much-needed public health information for policymakers and program managers.

“Timor-Leste has also launched and implemented its first National Action Plan for AMR in 2017. Since then, much progress has been made to contain the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), including the establishment of the multi-sectoral national committee; large scale campaigns to raise awareness on AMR; public awareness surveys; AMR surveillance by both animal and human health sectors, with the support by Fleming Fund; reducing the incidence of infection through sanitation and hygiene; optimizing the use of antimicrobial medicines in human and animal health, etc, he said. 

WHO Timor-Leste has been working with the Ministry of Health at all levels to combat existing threats of infectious diseases such as COVID-19, tuberculosis, monkeypox, and HIV among others. And also supporting the Ministry of Health to strengthen the country’s defenses against such threats arising in the future.

At the same place, Co-Lead Menzies in Timor-Leste, Jennifer Yan said that Menzies’s relationship extends back around 20 years, supporting capacity building, health research projects, and helping the government establish the research cabinet and ethics committee processes.  

“Over the last five years, Menzies’ support in Timor-Leste has grown. Menzies aims are to support the government and people of Timor-Leste to strengthen the health system, particularly in response to infectious diseases, and to perform research into priority health issues for Timor-Leste, to generate data and evidence that can help to inform health policy and improve health outcomes,” she said. 

Yan said so far Menzies’ team had carried out research on infectious diseases, including seroprevalence of hepatitis B, measles, rubella, and dengue in health care workers, and in a national population survey, serious bacterial infections in patients, mass drug administration impact on scabies prevalence, the pneumococcal carriage in children with pneumonia and malnutrition, the epidemiology of COVID-19 in Timor-Leste, and antimicrobial resistance in chickens in Timor-Teste, and the relevance to human health. 

“Menzies is committed to working alongside and continuing to support our Timorese colleagues and the government of Timor-Leste, into the future: “We plan to continue to support in the areas of laboratory strengthening and antimicrobial resistance, dengue, malaria, HIV and TB, leprosy, brucellosis.”

She emphasized that one major objective of Menzies’ work is to support the generation of data and evidence for some of these important health questions for Timor-Leste.

“The other major objective of our work is to work side-by-side in mentorship and build the skills and capacity of those we work alongside, to a shared vision of these individuals being leaders within Timor-Leste in their respective fields, and becoming mentors to others developing below them – in laboratory science, pharmacy, clinical, veterinary medicine, surveillance, researchers. I will share some more about this mentorship approach in the plenary session later today,” she concluded. 

The Minister of Health, Odete Maria Freitas Belo said that the threat of emerging infectious diseases remains high on the global health agenda and Timor-Leste must also take advantage of the experience faced during COVID-19 to strengthen the capacity of national health services.

“Infectious diseases have been the highest causes of mortality and morbidity, with Tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS, Hepatitis, dengue fever, acute respiratory infections, leprosy, Scabies, and diarrheal diseases among the top diseases of public health concern in Timor-Leste,” Belo said. “This year, the Government has approved new legislation to establish Timor-Leste National Public Health Institute. Central to this new policy initiative is how the National Institute of Health (INS), the National Health Laboratory, the National Directorate of Public Health, and the National Directorate of Disease Control become part of one big entity with full autonomy to health prevent and control infectious diseases,” Belo said. 

She stressed that without the support of Timor-Leste’s development partners, the country will lack further behind in finding solutions to the health problems: “Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I would like to thank our development partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, IOM, Asosiasaun Maluk Timor, Menzies School of Research, St. John of God Health Care, Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, Cuban Medical Brigade and the Chinese Medical Team, Caritas Timor, Klibur Domin, Leprosy Mission, together with partners from DFAT, KOICA.”

The second international health scientific conference on infectious diseases entitled: “Strengthening systems for diagnosis and control of infectious diseases” was realized by the National Institute of Health (INS). 




Journalist: Filomeno Martins

Editor: Nelia Borges 


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