WHO and MoH commit to sustain Timor-Leste’s rubella free status

WHO and MoH commit to sustain Timor-Leste’s rubella free status

Photo Tatoli/Filomeno Martins

DILI, 03 august 2023 (TATOLI) – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Ministry of Health (MoH) celebrated the successful elimination of rubella in Timor-Leste, pledging to monitor and sustain the elimination status of the disease in the country.

WHO Representative in Timor-Leste, Arvind Mathur, said that high routine immunization coverage is key to maintaining the disease elimination status.

“There are remote and difficult areas where sometimes it is not possible to reach every child and every mother. That is why campaigns are needed. That is why we periodically do nationwide campaigns so that we can bridge the vaccination gaps,” Mathur told reporters, in a press conference, held in Dili. 

He emphasised that for Timor-Leste to remain a rubella-free country, health workers must remain motivated and trained to provide vaccination to children.

“Our commitment to support the Ministry of Health in maintaining the elimination of the disease in the country is that we have our experts with whom we are working closely, but most importantly we are supporting the Ministry of Health in surveillance to detect any suspected cases,” Mathur said. “Going forward, we are working closely with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF to ensure that there is enough supply of vaccines available. We will strengthen and support surveillance both at the referral hospitals and at the HNGV.”

Mathur added WHO also pledged to work closely with the National Health Laboratory in building their capacity by looking into their quality and accreditation so that they will continue to test samples in a timely manner: “We remain committed to Timor-Leste being number one in maintaining the elimination of rubella and measles.”

Mathur stressed that to maintain the elimination status, Timor-Leste must achieve and sustain over 95% MR routine vaccine coverage in all municipalities.

The Chair of the National Immunization Technical Advisory Group (NITAG in Timor-Leste, Mariano da Silva Marques, also raise the importance of the mass rubella vaccination campaign to ensure all children are vaccinated against rubella.

He said the Ministry of Health would allocate a budget every year for the purchase of measles and rubella vaccines to ensure high immunization coverage in the country: “Ministry of Health always puts efforts to achieve more than 70 percent coverage of measles and rubella vaccination. And we will continue our efforts to reach our goal of having 95 percent of Timorese children vaccinated against these diseases.”

“The government is committed to increase the vaccination coverage from 70 to 95 percent by making rubella vaccination services available at all community health centers and health posts. This is to ensure that no child is left behind,” Marques said.

In the last three years, no indigenous rubella cases have been identified in the country. 

On 21 july, 2023, the World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office (WHO SEARO) announced Timor-Leste as a rubella-free country.

Timor-Leste joined Bhutan, Maldives, and Sri Lanka as the only countries in the region to have eliminated rubella.

According to the WHO, Rubella is a highly contagious disease known for causing severe illness and irreversible birth defects in newborns when contracted during pregnancy. The disease has been successfully eliminated in the island nation through sustained vaccination efforts.

Cautioning against the risk of virus importation, the Regional Director, Poonam Khetrapal Singh, said continued focused efforts would be needed to now implement a post-elimination sustainability plan that builds on the strategies that led to the elimination of endemic measles and rubella.


Journalist: Filomeno Martins 

Editor: Nelia Borges


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