Manila, May 15-¬¬¬- The Minister of Health of the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste, His Excellency Dr. Nelson Martins, MD, MHM, PhD, successfully concluded a short 3-day working visit to the Philippines from May 12 to 14 to explore possible bilateral cooperation between the two countries, specifically tapping Filipino health experts in human resource development for the health sector in Timor-Leste.
His Excellency Dr. Martins first met his counterpart, the Philippine Secretary of Health, Hon. Francisco T. Duque III, MD, MSc, and succeedingly exchanged views with the curriculum development and technical experts on the Philippine health profession, midwifery and ”step-ladder” program from the Commission of Higher Education (CHED), Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital and the University of the Philippines and the Philippine General Hospital..
Having one of the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in East and South-East Asian Region at 660 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births and with low proportion of deliveries attended by skilled birth attendants (SBAs), it is hoped that Timor-Leste, with a population of over a million, would be able to learn from the Philippine experience of meeting the targets under the Millennium Development Goals and help address maternal and newborn deaths and the lack of human resources in its health sector.
In order to realize his vision of 'many hands working together to make a difference' and to make Timor-Leste self-reliant from foreign health service providers, H. E. Dr. Martins proposed to have this bilateral cooperation sealed with a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Commission of Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines and the Ministry of Education of Timor-Leste to have Timorese students sent to the Philippines for study as exchange scholars and to train Timorese teachers over a 5-year period. H. E. Dr. Martins expressed his initial plan of establishing a world-class School of Midwifery in the National University of Timor-Leste by adapting the curriculum and seeking the technical expertise of Filipinos.
The Philippines and Timor-Leste, being Asian neighbors, share common experiences and insights not only with their respective colonial histories and religious practices but also, in health care delivery system. Although other countries are also being considered, H. E. Dr. Martins noted that the Philippines has been a friend for a long time. He also shared their pleasant experiences with Filipino obstetricians, professionals and UN peace-keeping volunteers in Timor-Leste.
The visit was facilitated by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) through their respective country offices in Timor-Leste and the Philippines. UNFPA-Philippine Country Representative Suneeta Mukherjee was more than happy to receive the delegation under the aegis of South-South Collaboration. Dr. Hernando Agudelo, the UNFPA Representative to Timor Leste, and Ms. Mukherjee agreed that the Health Minister's plan of ensuring midwives, nurses and doctors at the community level is timely and appropriate to raise standards in healthcare delivery, especially in meeting the MDG targets in Timor-Leste by 2020. With proven gas reserves of 200 billion cubic meters as of 2006, and oil daily production at 94,420 barrels per day, Timor-Leste remains to be one of the only two Catholic-dominated countries in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines.