Timor-Leste joins UN health agency

Timor-Leste joins UN health agency

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Days after becoming the newest member of the United Nations, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste has joined the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the agency announced today.

Days after becoming the newest member of the United Nations, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste has joined the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the agency announced today.

The country's Minister of Health, Dr. Rui Maria de Araujo, said he expected that Timor-Leste would greatly benefit from the experiences of other WHO Member States with similar public health problems and constraints. "Through the aegis of WHO, the technical expertise available in these countries would be able to provide advice on various health and health-related matters affecting Timor-Leste," he said.

WHO Director-General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland congratulated Timor-Leste for its membership, and said she looked forward "to fruitful, joint collaboration in tackling the public health problems there."

According to the UN agency, improving health and saving lives of mothers and children is the country's main public health priority. The infant mortality rate is estimated at 70 to 95 deaths per 1,000 live births, while the mortality rate of children under the age of five is also considered "unacceptably high."

"Communicable diseases account for the majority of deaths," Dr. de Araujo noted, with acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia, and diarrhoeal diseases, followed by malaria and dengue fever, the most common childhood illnesses.

WHO has already been meeting this challenge through its Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses programme, which comprises both preventive and curative elements in an effort to reduce death, illness and disability and to promote improve growth and development among youngsters under five.

Meanwhile, addressing the shortage of health working is another key to improving health in Timor-Leste, where there are only 47 doctors, WHO said. The agency has been helping to recruit and train health professionals; for instance, teaching skills needed to control endemic communicable diseases.

As immediate health problems are dealt with by WHO and the Government, both bodies are also determined to take the necessary steps to address health issues such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases that have not yet become severe problems, but have the potential to have a devastating effect on the people of Timor-Leste.