Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in Timor-Leste and diarrhoea is the sixth leading cause of death. Timor-Leste also has one of the highest malnutrition rates among children in the world.
Our partner, the Protestant Church of Timor-Leste (IPTL) through their agency, Fundasaun Sosial Naroman (Fusona Foundation), operates two health clinics in very remote parts of Timor-Leste: Same and Los Polos. We support our partner to provide communities with health and nutrition education and access to clean water, latrines and healthy food. This reduces malnutrition and disease and promotes healthy living.
Another key piece of work for the church is in child protection and safeguarding. 42% of Timor-Leste’s population is under the age of 14. That is a lot of young people to be nurtured and guided, all of them the children of parents traumatised by years of conflict during the fight for independence.
During 2021, as well as challenges from COVID-19 and lockdowns, Timor-Leste was hit by Cyclone Seroja, which caused some of the worst flooding in decades. In Dili, there was unprecedented destruction with bridges, houses, and roads collapsed in many locations. Neighbour rushed to help neighbour, around 10,000 people moved to mass evacuation centres (including churches), others to family in less affected areas.
Our partners in the IPTL were again at the forefront of a humanitarian crisis. Not just with a spike in COVID cases, but also waterborne diseases including cholera, dengue fever and malaria. And still they press on. They opened their church doors as emergency shelters and vaccination hubs, they sought out people in the community who are most at risk and without food.
During the height of COVID-19 lockdowns, the Fusona clinics were able to remain open and helped share information about COVID prevention and hand washing. Fusona also focussed on identifying and assisting families in need of better toilets. They worked to promote COVID vaccinations, nutrition advice, good hygiene habits and identify and treat people with diseases including tuberculosis.
In the aftermath of Cyclone Seroja in April 2021, Fusona volunteers were trained in safeguarding before going out to identify vulnerable and impacted families across 13 communities. They also monitored local food prices, as disasters and scarcity tend to push prices up and make them unaffordable for many people. Funds sent allowed them to purchase food supplies for the emergency response. IPTL and Fusona identified and provided emergency response, including food, to 148 families and 139 students who had become isolated by COVID-19 lockdowns and the floods.
From April to June 2022:
IPTL leaders, Fusona staff and 20 Sunday School teachers from five congregations have been working on a Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy. They have educated the project participants, congregations and Sunday School children about violence and non-violent behaviours. They also put a feedback and complaint mechanism in place.
Timor Leste (East Timor)
Protestant Church of Timor Leste through Fundasaun Sosial Naroman (Fusona Foundation)