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New Zealand a good friend of East Timor

Thursday 1 July 12 noon

New Zealand a good friend of East Timor

East Timor people are very appreciative of the work New Zealanders have done to help rebuild their country, starting right back when the first soldiers arrived to peace-keep following the vote for independence from Indonesia in 1999, the Minister of Health, Dr Rui Araujo, told the national Public Health Conference meeting in Christchurch today.

Dr Rui , who graduated with a New Zealand post-graduate degree in public health in 2001, said the East Timorese began to 'build a health system from the ashes' with three-quarters of the health system destroyed.

They had just 25 doctors, about 2500 nurses, midwives and other health workers, and no experienced management or administration staff, to meet the total health needs for three-quarters of a million people.

'Our first response following the violence after the referendum was to get relief and aid delivered through basic services in the community,' he told the 300-strong audience. 'Only one person in five had access to any health care at all.

'Then we made a strategic decision not to return to the inefficient, expensive Indonesian-style health system.

Inadequate nutrition, hygiene and sanitation are one main source of public health problems, he said. Another is the level of communicable disease - including tuberculosis and HIV/Aids.

Now, five years after the agonies of independence, the basic health systems and mechanisms are up and running, said Dr Rui. 'Three-quarters of the people can now reach health care, he said. 'Three-quarters of the health facilities have been repaired, rebuilt or replaced. Basic services focus on reproductive health, malaria, TB and other common infectious diseases, and we are working on strengthening oral and mental health services and countering HIV/AIDS. About half of all births are attended by skilled staff.'

East Timor too is recovering, he said, with bright economic futures in tourism, oil and gas products and organic coffee.

'How to help us? Stay at the back, support and coach us. The important thing for us has been to do the work ourselves in our way - let us grow our own.'


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